An eye for an eye

Unprocessed trauma is a weapon.

I had been listening to “Why is this happening?” a podcast by Chris Hayes. In this episode, he featured Mariame Kaba, a transformative justice advocate and prison abolitionist. One of the striking moments of the podcast was when Mariame opened up about her own sexual abuse trauma. In it, she explains that people’s traumas are valid and they are important for us to consider, however, society cannot be governed by how to address things mainly by people’s traumas and their fears. She goes on to explain that she is a survivor of rape and that she was what she terms a reactionary survivor. Mariame explains that she did not have an analysis of what had happened to her. That she was an incredibly hurt and harmed individual, who wanted nothing but violence against the person who had harmed her. That ultimately what she wanted was revenge.
She points out that had she been put on a panel of sexual assault survivors, without processing the trauma she had experienced, she would have advocated for the death penalty for all rapists. She points out that that is no way to govern a society.

The answer cannot be to go around and use capital punishment against everyone who has harmed us.

I highly recommend listening to the entire podcast which has been linked to in the opening paragraph.

I bring this up because there is a movement within bicycle advocacy to weaponize the trauma experienced by bicyclists and use their trauma to make broad and sweeping laws to “protect” bicyclists. These people are living in trauma. I know because I used to be one of them. I commuted by bicycle daily, 32 miles round trip, and experienced wave after wave of cruelty and harm from people operating cars around me.
The trauma I experienced was real and I’m still processing through it. But I’ve come far enough in my personal growth to recognize that what we are fighting against is not individuals behind steering wheels. No. What we, as bicyclists are up against is a society that has built a system of White Supremacy into the very roads we operate on.

Justice, for us, is not stricter laws, it is not segregation, and it is not education as a stand-alone response to the trauma that we experience on public roads. What we need, as a community, is transformative justice. We need a society that prioritizes people over speed, communities over roads, and our humanity over infrastructure. We need to be treated as equal members of society, deserving of the same respect automatically granted to people operating motor vehicles.

And often, when we advocate for stricter laws, there is a rebound effect in which the police then use those laws, which were intended to protect us, to harm us.

We need to hold our elected officials accountable and we each need to process through our trauma, so that we can run for office and make the changes that we know to be just and fair to a society focused on equality.

People should not have to drive to get a gallon of milk. Kids should not grow up with glorified cartoons of automobiles as their introduction to our roads. Teenagers and young adults should not be wooed by slick films glorifying dangerous speeds and irresponsible driving. Does that mean that we banish these things or outlaw them? No!
It means that we educate parents to raise socially responsible children, school programs, high school volunteer programs and public PSA’s about the realities of speed and what happens to the human body, even when it is surrounded by a seat belt and steel, in a high-speed crash. We build walkable communities and we educate our police to be good examples, at least until we can abolish them altogether. Because a society that is ruled by the police is a society that is ruled by fear and fear is trauma.

We need programs for people who have transgressed basic laws to experience life on a bicycle. There should be training programs by certified bicycling instructors that allow motorists to travel their roads on a bike or a trike. We can implement stricter licensing requirements and require drivers to pass a bicycle operating equivalency test.

We can build up community and support for those who are harmed. City financed trauma counseling and recovery from harm programs, which center the needs of the victims. Allowing them to heal and return to society as whole people.

Our country was founded on the myth of white supremacy and it is this myth which frames our way of thinking. We need a fresh outlook and a new way of understanding the world around us. One of the ways to achieve these results will be to center victims of auto violence and find out what justice really looks like to them after they’ve had healing space to process through their trauma.

What is transformative justice? Read more about it here: Transformative Justice, Explained.

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Upside down and inside out.

Men will tell you that voting for a woman, because she is a woman, is wrong headed and biased. He’ll tell you that men understand the issues surrounding Americans just as well as a woman does. That beyond their ability to bear children, women are just like men. So vote for the better man.

A woman’s lived experience is not the same as that of men.

Nuanced interactions lead to nuanced thoughts, which the average man will never experience, in any meaningful way. If you have, then you’re not average and this statement doesn’t apply to you.

Can men listen?

Do men listen?

I appreciate and value those men who center the marginalized people in their lives. They are few and far inbetween.

Who you center is more important than who you value.

You can value black lives and you can value women, but if you are not centering them, you aren’t putting your hand to the plow. Words and good intentions don’t mean anything in a society run by men, bound up in the power of whiteness.

What is the power of whiteness?

The power of whiteness is the structure of patriarchy. It is a power which centers men and men only. The men of color and the women who support these men are side shows. Though they can often be portrayed as features. The proof is in their willingness to stand on their own. To advocate for the people in their community. Watch what is done to them when and if they do. What you’ll see is the men of color and the women upholding patriarchy removed from the spotlight.

Their power lies in the one who gave it to them. Not in the communities they represent.

Which is why it is your job to educate yourself on the differences in power structures. To know whiteness when you see it. Even if it is presented to you by the face of a black man, a white woman, and even a black woman. Whiteness is a structure in the house of patriarchy.

These men and women are chosen to deliver the message of whiteness. To plant the seeds which will take root in shallow minds, run deep, and break down barriers to their intended path. Yes, this powerful messaging system works for good and evil.

Though the structures it builds, from the ruins it created, are fragile and easily damaged by the witness of moral justice.
The shallowest mind can see that locking children in cages is morally repugnant. Their witness is not a victory, it’s a small light which needs to be fed, until it is a scourging fire in the souls of all who witness it. When a Republican representative shows horror at children in cages, don’t be aghast, when they turn around and vote for an equally brutal policy, but with better window dressing. Keep fighting and holding them accountable.

Our country lacks accountability.

We are told that there is nothing we can do. It is all shrugs and well wishes when a black woman is run out of political office in Vermont. A white man ran her out of office but it is we who are collectively to blame. We gave him power, we gave him agency, we gave him voice. You did this. It is your fault. You need to make it right. I need to make it right.

“If federal programs were not, even to this day, reinforcing racial isolation by disproportionately directing low-income African Americans who receive housing assistance into the segregated neighborhoods that government had previously established, we might see many more inclusive communities. Undoing the effects of de jure segregation will be incomparably difficult. To make a start, we will first have to contemplate what we have collectively done and, on behalf of our government, accept responsibility.”
― Richard Rothstein, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America

Accepting responsibility for the actions or inactions of others has traditionally been woman’s work. Women have more experience when it comes to cleaning up the mess men leave behind. We’ve seen the steadfast leadership of Nancy Pelosi. We’ve witnessed the misogynistic attacks on her femaleness and her age.

Anyone suggesting that voting for a woman is biased, is someone with an agenda. A hidden thing they don’t want you to see.

Women are carrying the anger of men on their shoulders. It’s not their responsibility, it’s not their job. But we’ve been told it is a woman’s job and we’ve been told that it is our fault, if/when hate comes in.

Ms Morris says friends and colleagues tried to convince her to change her mind. After her announcement, Vermont Governor Phil Scott, a Republican, offered to support her re-election, warning that her resignation would allow the forces of hate to win.

That, according to Ms Morris, is victim-blaming.

“The systems need to change to support individuals in office so that they do not have to live in fear and terror,” she says. “These are incredibly violent times, and I do not feel any need to martyr myself or my family.”

It can’t fall on her, she says – or on any one person – to try to fix a broken system. It takes a “chorus of people”. via BBC

The same men who could have centered her, did not. The same women who could have called their local police department and demand accountability, did not.

We are the reason she left. This is our fault. This is your fault. This is my fault.

“We did everything that we were told to do, reported everything, held nothing back and trusted in a system that, in the end, was insufficient and inept at addressing and repairing the harm done… we were told there was nothing to be done.” via Raw Story

There is something we can do.

We can work at local levels, state levels, federal levels to make sure that marginalized people are centered in policy.

This is your job. This is your responsibility.

Flipping the script

You do me proud, people of social media. Your steadfast, no bullshit approach to the conservative funded PR blast was spectacular.

You give me hope for a better future.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will have heard about Nick Sandmann smirking and menacing Native American Nathan Phillips.

You will also have witnessed the rapid ascent of a conservative PR firm “script flipping” the narrative, surrounding the events that occured.

You can read some really good accounts of it here and here.

A really good narrative can cast doubts in the minds of average people.

Average people don’t question the narrative, they don’t research, they don’t question their own internal biases, they don’t even examine if they do have internal biases.

How do you get around people like that?

In a world where average people hold sway over the lives of those in vulnerable positions. A world where those average people are told what to think, how to think, when to think. Like a mass army of minions, a sleeper cell of bots, ready to turn on marginalized people at any moment. Sometimes even against each other.

For me, I’ve found standing my ground, standing firm, has helped. But it has not been a perfect solution. Because they are always writing, scripting, a narrative that benefits them and causes you harm.

So again, how do we get around people like this. All those average people who think they’re so smart. Looking at the world through their own warped lense. Gleaning the information which only reconfirms their own internal dialogue.

Walls are more than a metaphor, a wall is a real blood brain barrier, a cognitive barrier that is viciously guarded. Like any wall, there are weak points and there are strong points. We can’t know what or where those weak points are and we can guess at the strong points. But we’d only be guessing.

The reality is that our messaging isn’t for the protagonist, it’s for their followers.

We aren’t tearing down walls. We are planting seeds. These seeds will take hold, their roots will run deep and search out those weak spots on their own. Our only job is to spread the message, work with legislators, and activist groups to get the message out.

We know this method works because it’s been used for decades. It was used to change public opinion surrounding women’s right to vote, the right of slaves to be free, and the right for people to marry whom they love. It’s a system of messaging that creates a shift in public consciousness.

I am looking for people to help me flip the script, tear down the patriarchal narrative which surrounds and intertwines itself throughout our everyday lives.