Turning 44, Defunding the Police & the Third Force
Posted on July 3, 2020
I turned 44 last week and I’m letting it all soak in. In the pandemic and the new uprising, I’m not able to be on the streets as much but there is a role for everyone. What is my role in this moment? Am I living with joy and purpose?
Sometimes we get stuck and don’t know what we’re supposed to be doing but at the end of the day we should all be doing something. But, do what and with who? What if it is wrong??
I’ve also been coming back to these themes: trust, wisdom and practice.
TRUST – I’m grateful that I found a team/squad to roll with. A team that I built a baseline of trust with through the years.
WISDOM – I’ve been able to access the wisdom of generations before and the wisdom of young people.
PRACTICE – More importantly, I feel alive in practicing and doing sh*t together (and winning!). All these things bring me joy and purpose in these times.
I’m feeling grounded in this moment and see my role as an (awesome) baba, steward and yelder (young elder). My yelder advice is to find your lane, hone your craft, bring in new people and stay in connection with others.
Collin on Defunding the Police
Over the Juneteenth weekend, we watched the Sesame Street Town Hall on Racism and then while I was listening to one of my fav podcasts “Lady Don’t Take No” with Alicia Garza and special guest Marisa Franco from Mijente, out of the blue Collin says, “Baba, I have an idea!!” I say, “Yes…” He goes on, “I think the police are taking money from schools to buy more guns.” I was like, “Really…”
He continues to interrupt me and says, “AND then… We need to stop Donald Trump! Do I get to vote??”
My heart is melting and I immediately stop the podcast and ask, “Do you want to know how much the police has?” His eye get WIDE open and says, “How much, baba??”
We looked it up and found a bar graph of the a city budget (Philadelphia) and went category by category. He was shocked how much money went to the police and how little went to education (and labor and community empowerment). He said, “We should cut it (the police budget) down in the middle and give it to the other workers…”
“We should cut it (the police budget) down in the middle and give it to the other workers…” – Collin
Note: Collin is at the age where he is REALLY into police, cars, trucks, and other vehicles.
I share all this for a few reasons.
First, people are getting all worked up about “defund the police” like they don’t understand but it is really pretty simple. It is to divest from police and invest in more effective solutions like schools, education, mental health, services, etc.
Second, Collin (and honestly his generation of unicorns) knows that Trump MUST GO!! Children tell it as it is. There are many who are disillusioned by politics and electoral work but we need to remember it is ultimately about creating a better terrain for us to do the people to people organizing and movement building. Neo-fascism is not it. We need direct action, organizing and electoral work. We need diversity of (coordinated) tactics. We need ALL of it!
Third, and relatedly, much love to all the people on the streets who are moving the needle, getting police out of schools and winning alternatives to policing. These are such unprecedented times. Just like Black Lives Matter in 2014 and the fight for Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin and all of the struggles before us, the movement keeps evolving getting stronger and smarter. But, there is no magic to this. It takes being nimble and focused. It takes trust, wisdom and practice. Here’s some wisdom on the moment I’ve been drawing from. This is Maurice Moe Mitchell on People’s Action‘s Next Move.
From the Third Rail to the Third Force
For the last 15+ years, talking about the role of China and Chinese people in the movement was honestly like the third rail. But now, with the rise of US-China tensions and massive repression from both states, it is clear that the left-right paradigm is woefully inadequate to address economic, climate and health crises in the 21st century — we need a new path, a Third Force.
Many get caught between the two states (Pro-China or Pro-US) but there is a growing number of us who are grounding ourselves in an alternative path with people to people diplomacy. This is the Third Force and what I learned from the Vietnamese movement.
In May, I was honored to speak at the Friday Night Forums: US and China Relations sponsored by the Center for Political Education, Red Nation and the Arab Resource and Organizing Center. It was the first time (in a long time) I spoke publicly about this role and orientation. While the US imperialism is the primary contradiction, there are contradictions within China that we must reckon with and build people to people relationships. This was not a popular view among some Pro-China state leftists but it reminded me that we (Chinese people) need to take greater leadership to solidify and build the Third Force, the new “we” and become a leading and critical force.
This will not be a simple task and already there have been some unfortunate tensions within the US left but, at the same time, there have also been inspiring transnational solidarity efforts like Chinese for Black Lives that show us the possibilities.
I was reminded the other day that creating this Third Force is quite literally in the spirit of the Bandung Conference, the first large scale Asian-African conference in 1955 and the Non-Aligned Movement. Similarly, they were creating a pathway that did not side with either state but with the people, and guided by the people. I can get down with that.
Finally… on this Farce of July weekend, Check a couple of these videos…
“What to My People is the Fourth of July?” Daveed Diggs’s powerful rendition of Frederick Douglass’ speech.