Issue #16: Revisiting Safety and Belonging

Safety is a prerequisite for and a result of belonging.

Psychological safety entails that belief that you will not be punished if you make a mistake, a requirement for workplace teams to collaborate and perform at the highest levels.

We also need physical safety which is in short supply given the worsening COVID-19 pandemic and the police brutality on our small and large screens. A number of infectious disease researchers at the University of Washington, released and signed an open letter that identified the protests as a public health intervention fighting COVID-19 rather than a threat to public safety because of the significant burden of systemic racism and police violence on the Black communities already disproportionately negatively affected by the pandemic.

My parents participated in sit-ins and protests when they were my age. When I called my parents this weekend, the one word they kept using was tired. They are tired of having to demand the right to exist. They are tired of having to live in fear of being killed by those who don’t think they have that right. But they are also surprised to see the protests expand beyond Black people. When they were at those sit-ins in the 60s, they were largely all comprised of Black people. But now there are thousands of people of all races and nationalities in all 50 states and several countries demanding an end to police violence and systemic racism. Even I was shocked to see photos of a Black Lives Matter rally in Vidor, TX. Vidor is known as a sundown town, a term used to describe towns where Black people should be sure to leave before sundown if they didn’t want to be lynched.

There’s a potential shift in the Overton window of who belongs in America, who deserves safety, and even rethinking the notion of what constitutes safety. There are policy battles on social media; #8CantWait advocates for reform that promises up to a 72 percent decrease in police violence.

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In contrast, the days-old campaign #8toAbolition advocates for defunding the police altogether, in favor of reallocating funding in social infrastructure investments.

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Given my research interests in belonging, I can see why #8toAbolition has taken off, as a single tweet made on June 7, 2020 that has over 3000 retweets since this writing. #8CantWait has a lukewarm promise devoid of the belonging that protestors and their supporters seek. It does nothing to correct systemic issues like overpolicing Black and Brown communities for minor offenses and underpolicing investigations of violent crimes including the epidemic of murdered Black trans women and men. And in the best case scenario, we are left with uncomfortable uncertainty about the police violence that remains after the initial reduction. What kind of violence? Under what circumstances? Subject to which consequences?

In contrast, #8toAbolition envisions a world free of police violence AND a broader notion of public safety through provisions like safe housing and schools and more inclusive caring communities. #8toAbolition promises psychological safety and belonging, qualities that we all need and crave as humans. Psychological safety encourages creativity, innovation, and risk taking while belonging enables learning, connection, and trust.

In a world without police violence, here are a few things that could become possible:

  • Stronger familial relationships within communitiies: As families can stay together rather than being destroyed by injury, death, or imprisonment from overpolicing, both nuclear and extended families may enjoy tighter deeper bonds.

  • More intergenerational connections as communities grow and age together

  • Reduced income inequality gap for African Americans as they can participate fully in the workforce without stress due to policies like stop and frisk

  • Lower unemployment among African Americans

  • Greater school completion rather than disproportionate interruptions in schooling due to school police arrests and abuses

  • Greater job creation for occupations like mental health first responders

  • More diverse workforces at local and county levels fulfilling policing functions shifted to other domains

  • Greater unemployment as police forces shrink

  • Growth of more digital communities, vigilantes and militias comprised of angry former police employees

  • Decreased domestic violence and sexual assault

  • Weakening of public sector labor unions as police union contracts aer renegotiated

  • Greater civic and community engagement as participatory models of community governance and budgeting scale

  • Greater social cohesion within communities

  • Guns, vehicles and other military-grade equipment either sold or destroyed as waste

  • Vacant or largely empty publicly owned buildings and facilities as precincts close

  • Repurposing old precincts for community-based social services

  • Digital surveillance regimes that replace and out-scale human-powered surveillance

What are some of the consequences that you could imagine in a world without police violence?

What I’m Listening To

Unlocking Us Podcast: Brene Brown and Dr. Vivek Murthy on loneliness and connection

What I’m Reading

Universal Basic Everything: Creating essential infrastructure for post Covid 19 neighbourhoods

This concept refers to the tangible & intangible systems that we need to survive & thrive. These systems are comprised of relationships, friendships, products & services that need to be co-created, accessible, open source, simple in design, circular in production.

America, This Is Your Chance - The New York Times

“Our only hope for our collective liberation is a politics of deep solidarity rooted in love.”

  1. We must face our racial history and our racial present.

  2. We must reimagine justice.

  3. We must fight for economic justice.

Twitter thread on infiltration of digital activist communities

The Black Feminists Who Saw the Alt-Right Threat Coming

Exposing #EndFathersDay ultimately took the work of a group of black women who were determined not to let the ruse spiral, sensing just how poisonous this kind of trolling could be. And yet, in the years since, even as journalists have publicly asked themselves how they missed the rising threat posed by far-right extremists radicalized online, somehow one of the earliest crowdsourced anti-misinformation campaigns on the internet has been mostly ignored by the mainstream media. To I’Nasah Crockett, who, along with Hudson, helped uncover the #EndFathersDay hoax, watching the events of the past few years has made her feel like she was “a canary in a coal mine.”

The Movement Behind LA's Decision to Cut Its Police Budget

Although many of these People’s Budgets campaigns are young, the philosophy behind them is not. The concept of participatory budgeting, where local residents discuss and vote on their city or state’s fiscal priorities, originated in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 1989, following decades of military dictatorship. “They were trying to figure out what their new government would look like,” said Celina Su, a professor of urban planning at the City University of New York who studies community organizing and collaborative governance. “It was explicitly a pro-poor, social justice project.”

How to Hug During a Pandemic - The New York Times

Not only do we miss hugs, we need them. Physical affection reduces stress by calming our sympathetic nervous system, which during times of worry releases damaging stress hormones into our bodies. In one series of studies, just holding hands with a loved one reduced the distress of an electric shock.