Patty: So we’re here with Robyn Maynard, who wrote the book Policing Black lives. And this is a really neat follow up to our last week’s conversation with Desmond Cole and it’s also just really timely with everything that’s happening and all the conversations that are going on.
Robyn: I’ve spent much of the previous decade working in street based outreach, working with youth who were, you know, living close to the street youth who were in care a lot of Black teenagers. And then also was doing harm reduction with sex workers, drug users. And you know, because of that you really are witnessing all kinds of state violence that’s meted out on people that are being pushed to the, you know, people talk about being marginalized, but it’s really being pushed into the margin, violently, by police, by the child welfare system, by schools that are literally, you know, the school to prison pipeline is an accurate description of what’s happening, and really kind of trying to accompany people through those processes.
And you know, what you’re really doing as an outreach worker is like absorbing a little bit of that to reduce the negative impact, but there’s, there’s so little that you can do on a structural level. And I just felt that whatever arm of the state it was, whether it was child welfare, or whether it was policing, just this frustration with the absolute endemic way that Black communities in particular I was, and also, you know, Indigenous communities as well. We’re just being like, harmed and neglected by the state.
And that’s something that I think, increasingly frustrating and, you know, I’ve been an activist from way since I was in my late teens, working around racial profiling and trying to get thing you know, teaching people things like Know Your Rights, let’s, let’s all collectively understand our rights together. And as you get to a certain point, I think you realize you just continually realize, I suppose that regardless of what the law says on paper, regardless of us supposedly having rights, you know, it’s illegal to murder people. And yet the police do that to Black people all the time. It’s happening, you know, it’s literally happening constantly.
So I think that I just really wanted to, to find a way to address that, particularly given the way that it was being so invisiblized. When I was living in Montreal and in Canadian society more broadly, where, you know, we’d organize a rally and they’d say, “Black activists are alleging racism.” And as somebody that studies, this just out of, you know, out of documenting what’s happening to my community around me like there are, it’s not only just a live sentiment, which in and of itself is valid, right? But there’s been decades and decades and decades of study and proof that continues to be invalidated in the public sphere.
So what I really wanted to do was create a way of tying in the spirit of collective history of slavery, segregation, and the history of anti-Blackness in this country, and to help us make sense of the present, and the ways that Black people are being harmed across such a multiplicity of systems at the time right now.
I think it was, you know, that long simmering anger that has to go, that has to be directed somewhere if we want to stay healthy. So this was really a way of interrupting, one way of interrupting, I think, the constant stream of violence that people in my community we’re facing, are facing.
Patty: Yeah, for sure. I mean, and you always think you’re one of the good ones, right? Like I’ve tweeted about this, that you always think you’re one of the good ones. You always think that you’re there. You’re going to help you’re going to make a difference you’re going to and after a while you realize that by thinking you’re one of the good ones you’re trying to protect people from the system. And how messed up is that?
I don’t think anybody who has worked in these systems who’s paying attention could deny that there’s, I think it’s not so much that they’re denying it where they’re assigning the blame. Like they’re going to notice that there’s a lot of Black and Indigenous people being arrested, being convicted. It’s where they assign the blame for it. And increasingly, I have seen that the blame rests with the system. There’s nothing wrong with Black and Indigenous people.
Robyn: Yeah, Joy James describes that, she talks about, I’m paraphrasing her here, but really in particular, she’s talking about anti-Black racism as inverting the role of the oppressor with the oppressed. So the way that we’ve so much made Black, you know, I’ve been helping Black youth, this representation of Black youth being a danger to society, rather than those that are endangered, within schools, endangered by the police, we talk about, you know, Black women, you know, receiving Social Assistance being somehow a threat to the system, when in fact, they’re the ones that are receiving, you know, poverty wages while being criminalized, and, you know, living in abject conditions. So it’s this idea of just reversing, where the harm is coming from. And in doing so, erasing actually all of that violence is being meted out and justifying it by, you know, this association of Blackness with violence, with criminality, with, like all these sort of pathological things that we’ve attached on to Blackness. It’s a way of making sense of exactly what you’re describing the like significant population with vast overpopulation not that there’s an appropriate population of Black people in priso, n being killed by police. So it becomes a self-justifying logic that racist logic but it’s one that’s so strong in our society.
Kerry: I must say I am listening to both sides and I’m not sure what it was, but when I’m reading Mayor Tory’s proposal that he’s bringing forward about you his recommendations for police reform, I somehow I’m finding myself feeling kind of triggered. And as I’m listening to both of you speak about, you know, the positioning that we sit in, and the space of, you know, the criminalization of just the very being of us being Black and Indigenous, and just that what we face in these spaces. I, I almost feel like what I do when I see police kind of driving by that initial fear, like I feel this intake of my breath, as I looked at some of those reforms, and I’m relating it now back to this idea of the trauma that we sit in, you know, the, the idea of that, you know, they’re offering something out there and I know it’s just, you know, initial recommendations, but that I’m even weary of the idea of these initial recommendations. And it brings it back to the how, how polarized I think we feel in this idea of being criminalized for me. That we really do sits even when we are and think of being one of the good guys.
Because if you are in awareness, you will see how the system may not be afforded for us and of us and yet you try to function in that space. What are your thoughts when you think about this? Brand new? What is old is new again reforms that are being offered up by the city.
Robyn: I mean, first of all, I think that you’re just bringing up something that’s so important, which is one of the fundamental divisions in terms of how racial justice keeps being anulled and ignored because what you’re highlighting to me like is that is the fact that for some people to be considered safe, white middle class Canadians, it seems to necessitate the unsafety of Black communities, of Indigenous communities because the idea that police and prisons make a society safe is precisely what has been endangering and harming and killing our communities. So it’s this idea of what’s considered public safety, what’s considered public security. This massive investment in policing, which in Toronto is over a billion dollars is to Black communities, quite literally, an investment in violence and racial violence, but it’s concealed, uttered and described as public safety because of safety for, you know, a small minority upper class of a city that is predominantly poor and racialized. Right? So it’s a protection of a status quo and a particular safety for that very small and protected minority. Right. So it’s exactly about is exactly about safety and not being able to see those terms.
So that brings me to answering the second part of your question, which is, you know, what’s being sold to us right now? I think that if you look to the demands that have been coming out, across North America, this push to defund the police, to demilitarize the police, to dismantle the police. That’s based on a fundamental recognition of policing itself as a kind of racial violence, right. So it’s about actually taking a look at those that budget and saying how can we actually minimize the harm and eventually abolish the kind of this kind of harm and violence in our society, and in doing so invest in actual safety and safety for Black and Indigenous communities for people living with mental health issues? People who are using drugs, things like harm reduction, a safe supply, shelters, you know that all of the things that we’ve been denied and always told, because of austerity, there wasn’t enough money to where we look at, you know, the vast majority of the budget again being policing.
So given the demand, so clearly as articulated by the ones that we had put together for Black Lives Matter, Toronto to reduce the budget by 50%, for example, and is precisely critical also is what we’re seeing right now forwarded by social movements that are happening all across this country all across North America is a refusal to accept these sort of tacit reforms that we know only really just keep the legitimacy and the funding of the police intact.
So what Tory has put forward, for example, is precisely what nobody is asking for right now. Body cameras, right? If we’re talking about disinvestment, we’re talking about bringing the police budget down. The last time he announced about body cams, he was taught who’s saying it cost $80 million, right? It’s this is investing at a time when we’re talking precisely about divesting. We’ve seen, you know, since the 1980s Black feminists in Toronto, and in Montreal have been attempting to undertake these, what’s now called implicit bias training was called diversity training then. We’ve seen that, again, that increases the police budget while giving us, you know, the police killings have only gone up dramatically over the last 20 years, right.
So we’re seeing reforms that have already, and in Minneapolis, for example, there already was, you know, where George Floyd was publicly executed. There were body cams, there had been implicit bias training. So we’re looking at investing in methods of extending policing that already have failed to stop violence at a time when people, Black people and a multiracial coalition of people are coming together historically, to demand something else. To demand exactly disinvest dismantle demilitarize. And what we’re seeing is just ignoring those, ignoring those demands and trying to, I think, in a way that I cannot imagine would be effective. Because there’s been so such a strong political demand for something actually radically different.
And what we’re seeing is Tory, acknowledging, you know that there is an issue, but providing us a solution that is actually going against exactly what is being asked for right now, because there is a strong recognition that these reforms are actually have been deployed to placate us, as our populations have continued to die. So at this point, it’s not only not enough, it’s actually insulting. It is exactly the opposite of what people are asking for, in many ways. We’re not actually seeing a significant attack on the police budget, which, again, is something that’s being proposed, you know, by doctors at this point by, CAMH you know, by mental health professionals, we’re really seeing this massive shift, I think in exactly what we’re speaking about in terms of safety. And what is safety mean, I think we’re seeing a lot more parts of our society recognize that policing is not safety, and that we could actually invest in safety, especially if we divested so much of this massive bloated budget into a way from violence towards people, right. So ..
Patty: Some of what he’s also talking about is a group, a unit that’s not going to be actually police. So unarmed police basically going out and answering these crisis calls, which sounds kind of nice until you realize that they’re still police. Right and that they’re still police. The gun is in the back pocket instead of the front pocket. Like things can still and whenever they talk about, you know, we really need to focus on de-escalation. I mean, the flip side, we’ve been talking about this for a long time. I mean, one of the things that he had talked about in his recommendations is the, the thing the recommendations from the Andrew Loko inquiry and that was what 2017 that they were talking, you know and now he’s saying I’m now we’re gonna put forward a proposal that that we’re going to put then we’re going to put these in and some of those things are the implicit bias training and the body cams and all that. You know, and now he and he wants these unarmed police and really like you said what everybody’s asking for is less police. Let’s have no police, let’s not have nicer police in different uniforms. Let’s have, let’s have no police.
Robyn: Let’s have the police who attended a six hour workshop about diversity or you know. Those are still armed police that have a legal capacity to be occupying largely Black neighborhoods, public space coming to respond to mental health crises when we know that particularly when it comes to mental health crises like that is an uninterruption of that
Kerry: I I love that Robyn and Patty you guys are both speaking some real truths and I was thinking to myself, you know, the idea of the police coming in unarmed. Well, that’s wonderful, but do they still have their batons though? What does that even encompass and embody? And just the whole presence, as you just so meant mentioned with when you have a mental health crisis? Is that the way that we would want to meet somebody who’s so implicitly fragile and in danger in their own space, let alone you bring in somebody who has represented a way of being that isn’t supposed to be about the kinder, gentler way. I mean, that’s just not what the whole militarization of our police force has been.
I know, Patty, I you must remember the times when we’d have community cops, you know, that would come into the schools or would walk the beat. I remember in my neighborhood in Markham, we had like an officer that would walk the beat. And, um, you know, he kind of, there was always still a fear because he was always this big imposing person. And he still always had that gun. So I you know, it was it’s never been necessarily the biggest or the greatest way to build the interrelationship that we are seeing. And I, I’m very weary though, and this is my concern. Or my thought I mentioned this to Patty before, I’m very weary of proposals that have been put out like this one, because from what I am hearing or seeing is it really is almost just about kind of moving the flow.
Power never acquiesces power, you know, easily, and I am very weary as we’re watching the worlds as well on a world stage there is this this war drum that’s starting, we’re starting to see, you know, Donald Trump just shut down the ability to get work permits, over over, you know, period it’s it’s becoming much more difficult. We’re hearing some very anti-Chinese sentiments coming out, you know, in regards to some of our relationships, and I’m recognizing that as we are talking about defunding the police, and we’re watching our own systems falling apart, there’s also an effect of how it’s sitting on this world stage. And this needs a bit of the division that we’re seeing amongst our own. And how are you like, what do you guys think about that, like how that’s playing into what we are actually seeing in this foyer as well?
Robyn: I mean, so I agree with you. I think that you know, particularly since the pandemic, and even before we’ve been in this the midst of this huge upswing toward much more outspoken and straightforward kinds of white supremacy. You know, we saw even the federal Liberal government, you know, who come to power and this diversity is our strength thing, like we saw what happened to the Haitian migrants who cross the borders, you know, many of whom are still likely to be to be facing deportation, right. So we’ve been seeing this increase in xenophobia, state sanctioned xenophobia, that the pandemic has, in many ways made so much more awful in terms of just this absolute disposability and expendability of Caribbean and Mexican agricultural workers in Canada, of personal support workers who are largely, you know, Black and racialized women and some men.
So it’s like, we’ve seen the fault lines so much, you know, that all of I think the kinds of violence that we’ve seen already defining our society has just been greatly exacerbated. So, but I think where I would disagree, and where I feel actually hopeful is because what I think is happening now suddenly around the world is a large swing against that. We are going through, you know, what some people described as a white lash. And now we’re having these mass uprisings across Canada, across the United States. You know, there’s, like statues of slavers being thrown into into the river. You know, we’re really seeing this reckoning with the violence of the present and the very historic nature of that. So of course, is too soon to be optimistic and say we’re winning. I wouldn’t say that. But I would say in the popular sphere there does seem to be a switch suddenly right a switch towards actually a rejection of those logics that I mean, the pandemic made even more obvious. And I think in some ways, we’re seeing a demand for something that’s actually radically different from that.
So that’s why I find this to be like a particularly exciting moment to be alive because I think this reckoning with history, this reckoning with the very real violence, of the presence of legacies of slavery, of colonialism, of settler colonialism that have been like cracked open by the pandemic, and we’re just seeing a refusal to live that way to live to live in that in that society anymore. Right. So ..
Patty: and I think a lot of the conversations that I hear about defunding police, you know, abolish, because, you know, the conversations about defunding police that I’m most interested in are defunding as, as in you know, not having them at all right, you know, defunding on the way to no police at all. Defunding all their money. But in those conversations, what I’m also hearing is a connection with Border Services, you know, with, with all of basically all of the branches of policing. So it’s not like we’re going to get rid of our police service, but keep the border service, those are included. And we’re also going to look at the military and see what the military role is.
And so it’s not seeing any, it’s a recognition that these things are all connected and that these things are connected historically, not just in this moment, and I think that’s the difference that gives me hope for things, you know, hope in a way that, you know, I didn’t have before and I’m seeing a lot more conversation between the Black and Indigenous communities in terms of how do we support each other because the world we want is not this one. And so we you know, and I’m seeing a lot more of that and I don’t know we can’t we go in loops, right? We go you know, you know, we go and you know, every time we swoop round, we grab a few more and we grab a few more and eventually, you know Critical Mass happens and it’s just No, it’s an exciting time to be thinking of possibility.
Kerry: That I totally agree with Patty. What has me, I think I’m just saying my feelings today. Yeah, my feelings. But I think that that does give me a positive space. I recognize that we are rallying. There really is that space coming together where we are, we’re seeing that the powers that be can only respond if we become a united front. And there’s that recognition that I feel is coming around that we do see, wait a minute, Indigenous people, Black people, people of all different, you know, ethnicities, we are the ones that kind of make up the meat to the sandwich. And so if we can change that white bread a little bit, this is the way that we can go about doing it. And that does give me hope.
Robyn: But one thing that I also so one thing that I think is really powerful about the demand right now, is because it’s not only about funding, defunding is a smaller piece of a broader project called abolition right, that we’re suddenly really starting to come into the mainstream. And so much of the thinking about what abolition means is about building the conditions for safety, building the conditions for actual, you know, the presence of justice, meeting people’s needs. So it’s not only about taking something away, getting rid of police stations, prison, but it’s about actually saying what would it mean to keep people safe differently.
Mariame Kaba describes this so well, in this New York times op ed saying, We’re not abandoning people to violence, it’s about actually meaningfully, you know, we’re working towards a society where we actually meaningfully address violence, like we know that so much of what’s called crime is related to things that are related to people being poor. Which, of course, you know, is the result of racial and economic violence. So if we were to actually meet people’s needs, that people had places to sleep, that were decent, if you know, Black communities, we’re not living in food deserts with poor public transit, like if we address the conditions of people’s lives instead, right? So it’s not only about divesting from these budgets, but it’s about actually reallocating that money. So you know, it’s not an austerity project. It’s about actually building society differently and about investing in in into the public as opposed to into policing our communities, right?
So it’s, to me it’s this a two pronged project, and part of that often so gets lost in the media and the way that the media thinks about it, where they only talk about this defunding, you know, and in a context when we’re seeing this massive deficits because of COVID. It’s easy to take only that but I think what we lose there is the grain of actually building a different world that comes from divesting and then investing much more dramatically in something else. And ..
Kerry: I love that you mentioned that piece because I believe you are so on the money. We are really getting lost in that space where there there’s been no real mention of the idea of austerity and abolition and really recreating the system. The defund word has been the buzzword. And I do think it’s so important, and especially on this platform, let’s talk a little bit about what we’re what we mean by rebuild. What does that look like? Because I think that that is so the focus and really creating a space for us to see that portion of the picture. Because it’s that idea of the vacuum, right? If we have this vacuum of space where the police have always been our safety net. Is there any way we can reframe it now so that we could see what it really could look like and what we have in mind for those measures?
Robyn: Yes, I think that’s so much the question. And I don’t think that there’s any one of us living right now that has all of the answers, but it’s so clear, I think that there are so many things that have always already been on the table that have been drastically underfunded. Like if we think about the fact that most women’s shelters are over capacity, so that, you know, women, cis and trans women and gender non-conforming people trying to escape violence don’t have a place to go, right. So we address, you know, we imagine the policing as a solution to gendered violence, you know, 80% of police calls right now are going towards mental health crises, drug overdoses, and, you know, domestic disputes, right, and in a few other things, right. So all of those things, like we actually know that the presence of women shelters, that actually training our curriculums to address things like consent like that there are ways in a society even if we haven’t managed to, to bring in all of them that could address gendered violence that are drastically underfunded and have almost no presence, almost no funding in our society. We know that for mental, you know that there are other ways of addressing mental health crises that are community based that are non carceral that are not about psychiatric, forced psychiatrization, or about policing. And again, again, we don’t actually have the kinds of we don’t have the societal and base investments in that space.
We know that for things like drug overdoses, the harm of, you know, the what’s called the overdose crisis is about the criminalization of drugs. It’s about lack of access to harm reduction, outreach workers lack of access to safe injection sites, the fact that these safe supply programs, the safe drug supply programs are incredibly effective, but they’re so small, they’re these tiny pilot projects.
So we actually even for those some of the three main things that policing does, we actually already have solutions in place that are just not being employed drastically again, because so much of our public money goes towards policing, goes towards incarcerating so I think that those are just a few ways. You know, decriminalizing sex work instead of criminalizing sex workers. Providing decent, adequate housing for people for people who are intoxicated. You know wet shelters. One of the main things as a street based outreach worker is that you know, somebody is really intoxicated, they end up getting picked up by the cops, drunk tank, hospital, but you know, because there was always a lack of shelters where people could go, if they had been drinking and anybody doing this kind of outreach would know that this is what we need. And there’s almost none of that, you know, in in Montreal where I was working, right.
So it’s like, there’s so much. There are so many visions that already exist and so many, you know, experiments that people have worked towards and really brought into the world that we just don’t take seriously because of this lack of political imagination in some level, and this just this somehow using police as a catch all for every kind of social issue, even when we know that, you know, complex social issues, and economic issues require, like specialized solutions.
There’s this really great piece of writing by Dionne Brand. I’ve been looking for it for ever, and it’s because I thought it was called 100 pianos, but it’s called 100 musicians. And it was written in 2007. And it’s just based on this couples dispute where the one woman thinks that she hears the radio announcer saying that they’re going to send 100 musicians to Jane and Finch and our partners saying no 100 policemen. And she’s saying, but 100 musicians, 100 pianists. 100 flautists, like thinking about all the things that would actually you know, benefit cool though in the community
Patty: Imagine how cool that would be.
Robyn: right? And he’s so frustrated because he’s like, No, of course, police it’s police, but he just won’t. And she just will not give it up and continues to just hear, you know, 100 pianists, 100 something else and saying like, what if we could imagine that people who are poor, people who are like economically disenfranchised, like what if we actually invested in arts programming and cultural programming and after school programs and the kind of things that like wealthy children have, you know, in terms of access to just like arts and culture, or not this idea that we all need the kind of wealth that white people have it’s unsustainable and capitalism will destroy this planet, but really just, you know, to think differently about how we allocate that.
Patty: What Yeah, what that makes me think about is Alanis Obobsawin did three documentaries on the community of Norway house, the reserve, which was where Helen Betty Osborne was from that’s probably how most people would know of Norway house but in the third one, which shows the transformation in the community when the government when the government funds education at par, and that’s all it wasn’t even at par, it wasn’t even equal to what the provincial education systems got it was close. So but it transformed the community. It allowed them to do all kinds of things, it allowed them to hire teachers and it it was more than education. They wound up hosting like this fiddle that you know, that this national fiddle thing getting hosted at their school and the kids were working on it and, and it just, you know, so what you were talking about is all the government needs to do is fund, you know, for Indigenous people is fund child welfare, health care systems and the educational systems at par. That’s all they need to do. They don’t need they always talk about wanting to build capacity and wanting to do this and wanting to do that. But all they need to do is fund the systems apart.
And it’s the same you know, when We talk about policing and community safety. All they need to do is fund these things that people already have, like AOC had this great response to “What would our communities look like without police?” And what she said was, they’re going to look like upper class neighborhoods where kids have daycare where kids have school where parents have jobs, where people have health care, that’s what they’re going to look like. And these communities aren’t filled with police. So if we give people all of these things, that’s what our communities are going to look like. And we can think about community safety differently. So that’s what it made me think of,
Robyn: I agree with really the underlying sentiment of that. And I just also think that this idea of that kind of wealth, you know, this idea that Black people want to be equal somehow to white people , in this under capitalism. I always just want to challenge because of the ways that actually wealth is accumulated in that way is so vastly unsustainable is so destructive of the planet. And we know that you know, when it comes to the environmental crisis, the climate crisis, which is the crisis of racial capitalism, right, that it is Black people that are dying first. It’s Indigenous people. They’re dying first. So I also want to just kind of interrupt that gated community safety narrative that if we could just get behind the gate to, you know, that that would be safety and actually just think about, like dismantling the gate to think about actually living differently. And that’s sort of just like a more radical projection of the kind of society that that we would that I would hope that we could, I mean, thinking about get to at this time.
And of course, we have the pandemic health crisis on top of the climate crisis that I feel that, you know, we’re suddenly this suddenly has on our view, but it’s very much going to be impacting our lives. So I just want to always disrupt the idea that we should still be thinking about wealth accumulation, like re dispersing, and then also just thinking about stopping actually extraction, the extraction of Indigenous peoples homelands here, you know, on Turtle Island, globally, like Canada’s wealth also comes from mining across the continent of Africa, Latin America like this. All of that I want to take and I think we need to take into account to when we think about redistributing wealth, it’s not just about like, making the Empire stronger. It’s about actually disrupting that this ongoing colonialism as well.
Kerry: I, see you just hit that, that that brings thrills of joy, because I think you’re right. It’s, it’s what I believe we are, are recognizing or we’re, sorry, maybe we’re burgeoning on is exactly what you were saying Robyn. And we’re coming to this point where it’s not just about defunding the police, or you know, reallocation of wealth, it really has to become about this examination of the very system itself. We have an opportunity, I believe, to really take a hard look at how, when and if we do start to make these changes, does it really have to be encompassed in what is already existed? Or can we actually go into a greater, you know, different way of imagining what it can truly be? And I think that’s the key here because you know, the idea of the gated community which I so love the, you know, putting it out there because that is kind of the whole premise of being in this capitalist system. Does it really serve? And has it created this wonderful world that we are supposed to be in and for the most part, it is unsustainable. What can we do to create and what can it look like I think are the new questions. So thank you for talking about that and bringing that into the awareness of this conversation because that to me is a key part of the conversation.
Patty: Yeah, I think it looks like no states. I think it looks like cooperative communities. I think it looks like people building… You know, the freedom school in Toronto is a great example. I’d love to do some work around doing something like that down here. I think it’s instructive in terms of helping me to pick a direction. Because I think what I would really like is no states no borders. My son and I kind of talked about, you know, what would it look like? What will it look like when the US falls apart? Because, you know, so we’re kind of imagining the lines along which this is the US would fall apart. And what we wound up with was, was the bio regions and the nations as they existed before contact, because that was basically how we were like, you know, kind of laid out was a long bio regions, because that’s what makes sense.
But in terms of what do we do right now, you know, policing, and some of the stuff that I’ve read on policing also talks about a just change. Not suddenly prison guards and police all out of work, but a just change in terms of reallocating the non-murderous skills. I think murder isn’t really a skill, but, you know, but that needs to be part of the consideration as well, right that, you know, we can’t just have all these people now unemployed, there has to be, like they talk about with environmental issues, you know, in terms of moving to a green economy, a just transition, something that brings that doesn’t leave people behind somebody, because if you leave people behind, you’re just gonna
Robyn: Yeah, I mean, I think that it’s always, you know, the idea of dismantling racist institution, it like, institutions that are beyond reform, like policing, like prisons, for example. You know, like border regulation, like these are things that can’t really be done humanely that are themselves kinds of violence, kind of exclusions kind of captivity. Right? So imagining the absence of that, I mean, is exactly it is thinking it’s also about the creation of something else.
And it’s impossible for me to sort of envision a perfect world and all of the different populations, but I also think that, again, just pointing to like, what kind of demands are happening right now, that would vastly transform and undermine the kind of like racial and economic violence is that we see, you know, particularly in the context of the pandemic saw this really powerful push to release people from jails and prisons, because of, you know, the fact that prisons are always already violent, and because of the fact that people were so much more likely to be infected with COVID-19. And to die of COVID-19, of course, right, because of the conditions. And we know that Indigenous and Black peoples, again, are vastly over represented in these institutions. We saw this, we were still seeing this mass push across the country to release prisoners. And we did we know we did see some significant releases within many provincial jails and this idea that if we release people from prisons like the sky, the world would fall apart. That did not happen. Right. So we’re already seeing the possibility of this and I think that I hope that we continue to see that. I hope that our broader society continues to see that people don’t need to go back to that, that we should that people could have people could always already have been released, right.
We’re seeing we saw a lot of movement, particularly because of you know, the Black and other racialized migrants that did the hunger Strike in the Laval immigration Detention Center, the detention center right in Montreal, the eight day hunger strike that led to and really sped up the release of migrant detainees, I think that showed us what many of us already knew, which is that we shouldn’t be holding migrants captive because they didn’t fill out their paperwork properly, or for any reason, right, that this itself was not necessary isn’t necessary that, you know,
Of course, it would have been great if the state provided people’s housing as opposed to those of us in WhatsApp groups trying to go in because you can find housing for people that have been released. But as it was, you know, like we see that this could just happen. It always could have already happened. Like it’s not only about this pie in the sky future, it’s about like, what are the things we could do, divesting from the Toronto Police budget by 50%, reinvesting that in community. Obviously, there’s some huge barriers there in terms of the power of the police union, the political will of the mayor, of the provincial leaders, but in terms of actual practicality, that would so dramatically increase people’s quality of life so quickly, particularly if that money was really redirected to the neighborhoods that are the most policed, which are neighborhoods that are where people are living in the most poverty. Right.
So I think we can actually see in so many ways, you know, also this demand right now for status for all which is being for status for migrants without citizenship, like we see this in terms of migrant workers who are who are getting ill, and dying, being vastly underpaid and living in wretched conditions, right, this push to say that people who are working and picking the food that keeps this country going should have access also to decent pay, to citizenship, to decent living conditions, right.
So it’s just on there are so many fronts of struggle right now that have very clear demands that are very clear world building demands that would vastly reduce the kinds of structural violence that our whole society is really organized around at this time.
Patty: I’ve got some friends that are involved with the status for now project, you know, they’re involved with the migrant rights and you know, organizing locally and part of you know, the National thing. So, yeah, I’ve been I’ve been thinking about that. They’ve had a number of actions. And I was just at when a couple a couple of weeks ago, they had a day of action. And yeah, I mean, they’re .. the rules around migrant farm labor well around temporary foreign workers because it’s not just migrant farm labor, there’s lots of spheres, it’s just, it’s ridiculous. We’re gonna have to, we’re gonna have to do an episode about that.
Kerry: I think that that is a conversation on itself. And it’s actually something that’s kind of very near and dear to my heart. My brother in law came in came to the country as a migrant worker and that there was a whole journey that was attached to that space for us. So I recognize how unfair you know, and outrageous, it’s not even just unfair, it is outrageous, the level of brutality and just, you know, regulation that is put around these very people who come in to to create the life that we live. It’s it’s it is a whole other topic. We got it, we will sit down and discuss that.
But I was thinking about when we were talking is what do you what were I I’m I’m about to get very involved in a movement and a motion that’s coming forward. In regards to, I’m hearing the talk anyway, about bringing, looking at anti Black racism and racism in general as a public health issue. And I think that that is a radical and unique space. I’m really, really feeling that. What are you guys’ thoughts on that one?
Robyn: I think the framing of that is so powerful. I mean, as always, there’s always the possibility for something to be co-opted in a watered down version, but I think that there’s a radical a very radical assertion behind that which says that, yeah, that precisely names the issue, which is, you know, that racism literally kills. That it harms our bodies, that it harms our health and that it also ends our lives. That’s precisely what health should be defined as I think that this powerful shift to understand, you know, in the United States, for example, we’ve seen really a shift towards many public, some public health bodies, understanding police, policing and police violence as a public health issue, to understand actually anti Black racism itself as a health issue, I think is great, because if you think about how long Black people have been pushed out of the notion of who’s public, who’s even considered the public.
If we were thought of as the public as well, then the like the premature death, you know, the proximity to so many other kinds of illnesses, lack of access to decent food, that would already be a health crisis. And it’s only because Black people haven’t been considered people that it hasn’t been seen as a public health crisis. Right. So I think it’s about it’s, it’s one changing gives us the possibility of changing the nature of how public has been conceived of, and it’s just naming something quite accurate, which is if you’re having a mental health crisis, and you’re shot and killed. That means that there’s something that is functioning, that is precisely about, it’s precisely about health and the fact that Black people have been denied health and even the idea of access to, to who’s public. Right. So I think that it’s I think it’s a really powerful beginning of changing the way that we think about health and who’s who is supposed to be.
Patty: It’ll be interesting, because the motion is actually before our local regional council tonight. So it will be I, I was hoping this was going to speak to because a friend of mine messaged me about about the wording of the motion. And then I realized that we were going to be talking to you and I was like, I can’t. So then I corralled a bunch of friends, people that I figured I could count on and then a couple of them kind of went off and grabbed a few more so there’s a number of people going to be speaking to it tonight. So it’ll just be really interesting to see what happens because I think right now our council is in a really neat place because we just had a local mayor who refuse to fly the pride flag. His council at his city council had to actually move against him in order to fly the flag, the pride flag in his area. So I think it’s an interesting time for this motion to come through locally. So we’ll see what happens, we’ll have to update everybody. [Update: The motion passed! Yay, now on to the work to make sure it isn’t co-opted as Robyn points out]
Robyn: The only thing though, that I like it’s a step. And we also see how to be so easily co-opted, because like, if you think about the overdose crisis that’s seen as a public health issue, and people were still so unnecessarily dying, because they just refused to act because it’s about a population that’s seen as disposable, which is drug users, right, which is a lot of people close to the street. It was seen as a public health issue, but it’s still not meaningfully addressed the way that a public health issue that affected like primarily upper middle class, people would be right. So something can be about public health and still be like vastly neglected and allow vast numbers of people to die preventable deaths.
So that’s the only thing is I don’t ever like to think of anything as the end point. But it’s a really powerful shift in thinking and it’s all about how we you know, never really let them get away with selling it back to us as justice, right that justice is bigger than it getting them to agree on voting because we have to always push for the meaningful changes that need to accompany a declaration. But changing this shift and a, just a shift like that in the way that we think about something I think is in and of itself, meaningful, important, especially right now.
Kerry: What I agree with you, though, Robin, you brought up something that I think is so important is the recognition and the understanding that it is all of these unique spaces, it’s going to be all of these different forms of attack, like this concept of defunding the police. It’s going to be the idea of bringing forth motions that are going to know you know, for public health, it’s going to be all of these different ways. I think we got to kind of hit it hit the system from all sides, every side like just batter it up till it doesn’t know where it’s coming from.
Robyn: Yes, a multi-pronged all systems attack.
Kerry: And the time is right to bring it now. Yeah. And with that being said, that lights my heart because we can’t step off the gas. That is what I really believe. And every one of us has a unique positioning and part to play. So I am I’m so enthused at this as well as even taking back our school systems to some degree or creating our own fundamental school system so that this next generation will sit in a different space and maybe we can finally break the cycle of how we are seeing this this system perpetuate itself. So yeah, I’m hopeful. I’m really hopeful. Okay, yay.
Patty: Yay! Kerry’s hopeful. There you go. Robin, you are great therapy. Thank you.
Robyn: So glad to here.
Kerry: I am, I’m not so much of my feelings now. But that was at the beginning of this. So, I appreciate you, I think you are brilliant. You brought such a great light. I loved your perspectives; you really have a powerful way of expressing what is so needed for us to hear in community right now. And I really, really, I’m grateful for this conversation. You helped me get at my feelings.
Patty: Thank you. Thank you so much. And I don’t know man, I think we’re gonna have to have you back eventually to talk about this some more because things are sure things are changing. Things are changing. And the image that came to my mind Kerry, when you were talking about you know, battering on all sides, all I’m thinking is, we’re gonna get out there, and we’re gonna float like a butterfly sting like a bee.
Robyn: I’m so glad to hear that. You know, usually is the one talking about police violence and police killings. It doesn’talways end in a sunny feeling. But I think that, you know, we really got to get into some of the dreaming of the very precious things that we actually can win right today. And I really enjoyed speaking with both of you. I love your podcast.
Patty: Thank you so much, Robin. Yeah, we appreciate you and all your work. Yeah, it was amazing. Thanks. All right, bye. Bye.
Robyn: Thank you for having me on tonight. This was a joy for me. So appreciate you both very much.
Patty: All right. All right. Good night, everybody. Thank you so much.
Robyn: Okay. Bye bye.
Kerry: thankyou, bye
You can find Robyin on Twitter at @policingblack
You can find Medicine for the Resistance on Facebook and the website http://www.med4R.com . Don’t forget to rate share and support us by buying us a coffee at https://www.ko-fi.com/medicinefortheresistance. You can also support the podcast and so much more by going to https://www.patreon.com/PayYourRent. You can follow Patty on Twitter @gindaanis and at daanis.ca you can follow Kerry @kerryoscity and find her online at kerrygoring.com our theme is fearless.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai