10 Forms of Healing and Resistance in the Face of Police Violence
Creative Commons photo adapted from Daniel Bagel.
You might be feeling a lot this week. The dukkha, suffering, which the Buddha taught is present to some degree in all things in life, might feel especially acute right now. In the aftermath of the police murders of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and Alva Braziel; with hundreds of people dying from recent attacks in Iraq; and with no end in sight to the racist war machines in the U.S. and abroad (the Bahamas, for one, have officially issued travel warnings for Bahamians visiting the U.S.A., advising “extreme caution” when dealing with police)…
…it is a lot to hold.
We are with you, swimming in it. And as a reminder that you are not alone in your Buddhist communities, we wanted to offer a range of Buddhist perspectives — from Black folks, white folks, Asian Americans, and other people of color — reflecting on this moment.
This collection is not exhaustive by any means, but we hope you might find something useful in it, whether you’re looking for regenerative healing, fiercely compassionate confrontation, or both.
- Lama Rod Owens — excerpt from Radical Dharma
- Ryan Sin — photo essay from Oakland rally and freeway blockade
- Ruth King — a message to Black practitioners
- Katie Loncke — gratitude from an Oakland freeway blockade
- Susan Quinones — a white woman feeling at a loss
- Michelle Alexander — there can be no “fixing” of American policing
- Buddhist Peace Fellowship — demilitarizing police; ending Urban Shield
- Jessy Zapanta — meditating to support the #FriscoFive and #FireChiefSuhr
- Pacific Rim Solidarity Network — Asian Americans for Black lives
- Three groups — building safety outside the police
1. Take A Break If You Need One
— Lama Rod Owens, co-author of Radical Dharma
2. And/Or, Help Block A Freeway with Fellow Protesters
3. Nourish Your Spirit with this Audio Prayer for Black Families
Listen to insight from Buddhist teacher Ruth King:
4. Practice Gratitude For Resistance
darling, we need your open heart
your best guess
your courage and fierce pride — we need those, too.
any revolution that i love, loves you.
i am grateful to the truck driver last night who sat for hours in his cab and honked brightly in support of our blockade, even though he hemorrhaged his own pay with each idling minute as an exploited contractor in the just-in-time economy. i am grateful to the Black people who eventually decided it was cool to let him through — having made the point that Black Lives are worth more than money.
i am grateful for the strategic debates among Black women that i witnessed on the freeway. voicing aloud their love and respect for each other even as things got heated and felt high-stakes.
i am grateful to everyone holding space for Black grief and rage — online, in person, one-on-one, in collectives. even our local weekly (East Bay Express) has announced that it will lend space in its pages for a forum of reactions and feelings about the recent police murders of Black people.
— Katie Loncke, Co-director, Buddhist Peace Fellowship
5. If You Feel At A Loss, Know You’re Not Alone
At Buddhist Peace Fellowship, we recently received this inquiry from a white practitioner, who gave permission to share it publicly. Gratitude to white folks who are searching internally and externally for resources to help heal internalized and systemic racism.
Hello to both of you,
My heart is heavy as I write this, as I go about my days, as I sit, I feel such sadness for all the violence that is being perpetrated against people of color, of the marginalization, the imprisonment, the continued and perpetuated racism. I am deeply troubled and not sure where to turn.
I know that things will not change until white people start talking about this and looking at the attitudes that are so deeply rooted, conscious or unconscious. It needs to be part of the daily dialogue but I think many feel like I do, where to start? How to make it a meaningful discussion?
As a Buddhist practitioner, I wonder how I can get myself and others socially engaged to talk about this and work toward change. I live in a white community, in a vacuum, in the happiest city in the US. How can I feel happy when so many are suffering.
6. Learn Why Activists Are Questioning the Role of Police in the United States and Canada
Find out why Michelle Alexander, renowned legal scholar and author of The New Jim Crow, believes it’s impossible to “fix” the current problems with U.S. policing.
In recent years, I have come to believe that truly transformative change depends more on thoughtful creation of new ways of being than reflexive reactions to the old. What is happening now is very, very old. We have some habits of responding to this familiar pain and trauma that are not serving us well. In many respects it’s amazing that we endure at all. I am inspired again and again by so much of the beautiful, brilliant and daring activism that is unfolding all over the country. Yet I also know that more is required than purely reactive protest and politics. A profound shift in our collective consciousness must occur, a shift that makes possible a new America.
I know many people believe that our criminal justice system can be “fixed” by smart people and smart policies. President Obama seems to think this way. He suggested yesterday that police-community relations can be improved meaningfully by a task force he created last year. Yes, a task force. I used to think like that. I don’t anymore. I no longer believe that we can “fix” the police, as though the police are anything other than a mirror reflecting back to us the true nature of our democracy. We cannot “fix” the police without a revolution of values and radical change to the basic structure of our society. Of course important policy changes can and should be made to improve police practices. But if we’re serious about having peace officers — rather than a domestic military at war with its own people— we’re going to have to get honest with ourselves about who our democracy actually serves and protects.
Witness, too, the analysis and wise actions of queer and trans Black folks, and non-Black people of color, in #BlackLivesMatter Toronto and Pride NYC. (Warning: mainstream journalist condescends to queer Black Lives Matter Toronto activist in first link.)
7. Join Buddhists Pushing to Demilitarize Police
The coalition to Stop Urban Shield successfully pushed the annual, national police weapons expo out of Oakland, California in 2014. Now they’re mobilizing a statewide campaign converging on September 9th, 2016, to put further pressure on the expo and war games, where domestic police are trained to use armored vehicles, advanced assault rifles, grenades, and other highly militarized arms, all under the guise of “emergency response.”
As the coalition states:
[We want] to withdraw resources from police and invest the funds in strong community-run healthcare, social services, and non-militarized ‘whole community’ approach to emergency response.
8. Link Up With Police Accountability Struggles In Your Area
Maybe you have local campaigns already underway, or maybe you need to seek out the people doing the work in a way that reflects your values. Thanks to the zeitgeist of #BlackLivesMatter, now’s a great time to get involved with the struggle against police violence.
For inspiration, check out the #FriscoFive, who successfully led a hunger-strike campaign to fire the Police Chief of San Francisco earlier this year. Jessy Zapanta reflects on their leadership and a solidarity action coordinated by the Buddhist Peace Fellowship.
9. Organize Asian Americans for Black Lives
Conversations, scholarship, and education about anti-Blackness in Asian American communities are gaining serious ground these days. If you’re part of an Asian American community, now’s a great time to plug in.
BPFer JM Wong addresses the crowd as part of a counter-protest
at a Seattle rally supporting former NYPD officer Peter Liang. (Photo by Alex Garland.)
10. Help Build Alternatives to Policing
For those who feel more endangered than supported by police presence, organizing for community safety and self-determination is a huge challenge. But it’s a challenge that a lot of groups have been tackling for a long time — with some recent powerful surges and innovations.
Oakland Power Projects, an initiative of Critical Resistance,
builds the capacity for Oakland residents to reject police and policing as the default response to harm and to highlight or create alternatives that actually work by identifying current harms, amplifying existing resources, and developing new practices that do not rely on policing solutions.
Because policing fails to meet people’s needs, and puts people in danger of arrest, imprisonment, and/or even death, we must eliminate connections between policing and healthcare.The Anti-Policing Health workers Cohort, our first PowerProject, aims to
- increase resistance of the every-day violence of policing;
- strengthen people’s skills to respond to community emergencies in ways that minimize police contact;
- ultimately decouple access to health care from policing.
FOR PARTIES AND SOCIAL EVENTS
Safe Outside the System with the Audre Lorde Project, includes a Safe Party Toolkit
to build safety in party spaces without relying on the police or state systems. The Safe Party Toolkit can support you, partygoers, and throwers in:
- Creating a space in which partygoers self determination and safety are prioritized
- Preventing and intervening in violence before it escalates
- Making a community atmosphere where violence isn’t acceptable
- Encouraging others to intervene/prevent violence from happening
- Supporting survivors of violence
FOR NEIGHBORHOOD NETWORKS
Blocking, Building, and Being — so much is possible, though none of it is perfect. Would love to know what’s nourishing you these days.