CN: Police brutality, white supremacy, state violence, anti-queer/trans bullshit, pandemic, corona virus, sacrificing us,
So, as I know a lot of y’all have heard, cops slammed my head into the pavement at the end of last summer, and my brain is all fucked up. I mean, I could say it less dramatically, but I’m not so into using my storytelling gifts to write a narrative that excuses or downplays police brutality. We have enough of those narratives in the world, and one thing I love about running a small business is that I’m not getting paid for false neutrality. I’m maybe not getting paid at all, but I also don’t have to maintain any neutrality.
Which takes us back to how cops slammed my head into the pavement multiple times and now my brain is all fucked up. Specifically, I was counter-protesting the straight pride parade, that thinly veiled anti-queer white supremacist cluster fuck, organized by one of the Proud Boys’ front groups.
And by counter-protesting, what I mean is community self-defense. Because none of this is about opinions or ideas. None of this is theoretical. This is my queer ass on the line. This is my disabled ass on the line. This is my (conditionally) white Jewish ass on the line. And this is my community on the line. This is the people who came to get me when my actual biological family grieving my queerness and my survivorship, the family we find when our solidarity is thicker than our blood.
There’s the psychological violence of seeing that we are disposable, that our existence should be up for debate. That we should sit calmly by as our classmates wonder aloud if we are getting too powerful. Brave spaces. Uncomfortable conversations. Whatever other academic jargon label we give to this bullshit - valuing neutrality and “hearing all opinions, even if we disagree”. And I’m a highly skilled but often fired educator because my classroom does not have space for this kind of neutrality, which is, of course, just an extension of white supremacy. It’s psychological warfare, just like seeing white supremacists and bigots marching in goosestep in broad daylight is psychological warfare, meant to intimidate, all in the name of neutrality as a virtue.
And of course this psychological violence is backed up by physical violence, or at least the threat of it, like when cops slammed my head into the pavement. My traumatic brain injury (TBI) was deliberate on their part - they wanted people to see.
Right before I was tackled by at least 10 cops, I was escorting people to safety. Not to brag or nothing, but I’m pretty good at riot safety, at finding the folks that cops and white supremacists would likely target, and making my (conditionally) white body a wall. Washing tear gas out of eyes. Whispering quietly to the person freaking out, holding their hand and being solid enough for them to land. Noticing when cops first break out their clubs, and making sure everyone knows how to hide their softest parts.
Right before I was tackled by at least 10 cops, I had made my disabled femme body large, and my voice even larger. “Children coming thru” I had shouted, taking 5 high school aged brown girls through the fray to the Jewish-owned restaurant that refuses to serve white supremacists, where I knew they’d be safe. They hadn’t meant to be in the middle of this - it was the last Saturday before summer ends, and they were downtown because it was Saturday. They rolled their eyes at me, annoyed at being called children, even in my calmest riot mom voice.
I didn’t know if they were queer, or trans, or disabled. They were young, and Brown, and at least one was wearing hijab. They were my people, though, because solidarity is thicker than water, and community self-defense means that making sure that children and teenagers see that the grown ups will throw down for them. Community self-defense means showing each other that the psychological warfare won’t succeed, that our existence and our humanity will never be up for debate. We will always be here, and worth fighting for, because none of this is theoretical.
As I got back from walking the high school girls to safety, I saw a cop point at me. “Watch her,” he said to his buddy. It was clear to them that I know what I’m doing in a riot, and how to keep my people safe. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw three cops advancing on a femme person of color, and I went over to make my white body a wall. We know really well that cops will assault white bodies, but they won’t aim to kill in the same way they do when people of color, and especially Black and Indigenous people of color, have the audacity to exist in public. And as long as my conditional whiteness holds, my white body will be a wall keeping back the worst of police brutality.
“Get her” the same cop said, and my head hit the ground hard enough to break my glasses. I then felt the cops lift my head by my hair, and slam it back down onto the street. Then there was either a boot or an elbow in the back of my head, and next thing I knew I was in a police wagon. They were trying to sort us by gender, but they only had 2 wagons, which was not at all enough to contain us in all our glory; gender is so much more than a binary. And if you’re gonna get arrested, get arrested with queers, because we are pretty great, and because solidarity is so much thicker than blood with us.
All told, the cops arrested about 35 of us, and brutalized a whole bunch more of us. We all saw them high-fiving the white supremacists who organized the “straight pride parade” with its bigotted messaging and out and out stated/shouted threats to queer and trans and Muslim and poc and immigrant lives. This is a deliberate tactic, to combine the physical violence of police brutality with the psychological warfare of marching in regalia and announcing an “uncomfortable conversation” that leaves our humanity up for debate.
This tactic asks an abstract question about the value of our lives, like a professor writing on a chalkboard, and then attempts to answer it very publicly, with the blatant violence of heads slamming into concrete with everyone watching. This could be you the tactic warns others, carefully lets the high school girls who are downtown because its the last Saturday in August know that their beautiful heads could be next. But solidarity is thicker than blood, and stronger than fear.
My brain’s all fucked up, and it’s been almost a year. For the first couple weeks, I couldn’t even read. Letters swam together, and looking at a page made me throw up. There was no way I could write grants, or even a short email. I couldn’t remember anything, and I could barely remember words.
It’s gotten a lot better, and a bunch of systems of oppression that benefit my white ass ensured that I had access to supportive health care, particularly TBI-specific physical therapy. I’m building my endurance back up. I try to write for 25 minutes a day, for myself, and I’m hoping I can get back to the book I was writing before all this happened. And my sweet little dog started doing a bunch more service dog tasks and I love her.
I’m also just now getting back to writing, and running a small business, and I’m doing it in the middle of a pandemic. And the pandemic is highlighting and intensifying every last inequity and injustice in our vastly, deliberately unjust world.
I see us all struggling, and I see us all building, and fighting, and maybe also dying, because blood and solidarity are both thick, and both real as fuck, and we’re so unquestionably human, and our worth is once again being held up for debate. We are sacrificial, and I am not willing to sacrifice any of us, but I’m not in charge. None of this is theoretical.
And I remember the feeling of cops closing in on me, of my head on the pavement, knowing that solidarity is thicker than blood but blood is also real, and warm then cold in the August heat. I’ve always known that, and I know there is no longer any room for neutrality, for calmly sitting by while our existence is put up for debate.
How do you go back to work in the middle of a pandemic, in a field that mostly wants calm, “balanced” conversations that soothe white fragility and always remain abstract?
I built this business precisely because I know I can’t maintain neutrality, and I’m therefore unhireable in academia, the research field I trained for. I love teaching, and I know that even before all adjuncts everywhere were laid off while tuition remains higher than fuck, even before that I was not gonna both keep my job and also shut down white fuckery to make my classroom not just safe but affirming for my structurally oppressed students. I know what I’ll always choose, and that means I should be self-employed as long as capitalism lasts. And also chip away at capitalism.
And I built this business because I needed the flexibility to do my real work, which is direct action. For better or for worse, I was good at this shit, experienced in riots and community self-defense, which cops picked up on as I yelled “children coming through” and watched teenagers walk to safety. The tactic they used was deliberate, coming down hard on people who know what they’re doing, know how to keep others safe, as a warning for everyone else.
This tactic was supposed to make us afraid, and our fear would stop us from defending each other, from loving each other enough to throw down for each other. And in some ways, with this TBI, the state did win. I’m out of the fight, at least for now, because my brain is still healing and I’m not strategic and deliberate and quick on my feet like I was. I’m not as perceptive as I was, and my memory is shot. Blood is real and so is the lasting impacts of a TBI.
This tactic is used to make us afraid, so that we no longer protest injustice, so we sit calmly by as our humanity is debated. I’m not afraid, but I am out of the action. And if I’m honest, fuck yeah I’m afraid.
I’m afraid as hell of what is coming, of how this pandemic has highlighted every last injustice, every inequity, and we all know which lives will be counted as sacrificial, who this will hit hardest. And solidarity is an action, ultimately, but first solidarity is a feeling, is the pain we feel in our collective body when any part of that body is hit. None of this is theoretical. There is no room for neutrality, not as your head hits the pavement, not in a set of wagons too small to hold the vastness that is us and our genders and our existence, not in a pandemic that highlights all the vast and deliberate inequities white supremacy built.
How do you go back to work in a pandemic? How do I live in solidarity and not fear, act in solidarity and survival, build and build and build?
And I think this post ends with how I really, genuinely, don’t know. I know I can’t be neutral. I know I need to be back at work, and I need to bring my whole self, my squishy, injured brain and every last piece of me that has me carefully watching cops and making my queer disabled body and my femme voice as loud as I can while I shout that there’s children coming through, all the fight I have. I can’t do marketing and accounts payable like I’m neutral, and I definitely can’t teach like I’m neutral. We are so done with neutrality, even before this pandemic that reminds us that we are so much more than sacrificial. We are blood, and solidarity, and we are thick and precious.
I’ll still write grants, and I’ll do it for cheap or free for radical activists and communities. I’ll charge a lot for government agencies and white-led nonprofits focused on charity and “empowering” instead of solidarity and reparations. I’ll write other stuff for you if I can. If your unionizing effort or your survival program needs communications work for cheap, free or trade, hit me up. I really especially wanna be doing the investigative reporting and rabble rousing I was born for, or at least writing propaganda for y'alls.
Let me know how I can help, and please keep being patient with my squishy, injured brain. That's another thing that cops didn't think of with the tactic they used - my community has been caring for me, and I'm here because of solidarity. My brain is healing because of solidarity. Solidarity doesn't end after the riot, and its thicker than blood. Oppressors never count on us bringing each other plates of food, walking each other's dogs, keeping each other afloat, but we do. We know we're worth it.
We gotta burn capitalism to the ground. We’ll see each other through, like we always have.