society

Discomfort and Enclosure

The Seattle Times recently ran an article about the kind of mundane racism that seems to be a matter of course for people of color in our country.

Air Force veteran Byron Ragland was doing his job as a court-appointed special advocate and visitation supervisor, sitting at a table at Menchie’s frozen yogurt shop supervising an outing between a mother and her 12-year-old son. As he was working, two police officers approached him, checked his ID and asked him to leave.

It turns out two employees at the store were uncomfortable with Ragland because he hadn't purchased anything. The employees complained to their boss—an Asian-American man—who called the police. Though Ragland explained he was working and accompanied the mother and son, the trio ended up leaving the store.

The Seattle Police department has since apologized to Ragland for asking him to leave.

A topic that goes unmentioned in the article is the ongoing enclosure of public spaces in this country. More and more, any indoor space has a required price of admission. Practically the only free, public, indoor space available is the library. Even outdoor spaces are increasingly enclosed, regulated, fenced, and patrolled. If you can't pay the fee or don't fit the profile of someone allowed to exist in public, you're asked to move along. People of color feel the effects of this enclosure more frequently than whites and with greater consequences.

It is also highly concerning that the employees either did not feel comfortable asking Ragland what was going on, in which case he could have explained his presence at the shop, or were not empowered to do so.

This story reveals an increasing breakdown in our ability to relate to each other on a basic level. If we cannot have a preliminary interpersonal encounter without involving the police, then frankly we don't have much of a society. If the way we relate to each other in this diminished society is primarily with fear, then I cannot see how we begin the work to rebuild it.

When We Are All Armed, We Will Finally Have Full Security From One Another

There’s been another theater shooting. This time in Louisiana. This is not crazy. There’s nothing abnormal about this situation. When we are gathered in public spaces, we should now expect to be shot. It would be crazy to think otherwise.

Black people in America have been telling us forever, basically, that they expect violence at all times. They are wary of it. They look for it. They carry themselves in a certain way to fend it off. They are not crazy. The rest of us have been crazy. But no more.

Now we can join them and experience violent force established by government, codified in law, and supported by a vocal, extremist fringe of this country at all times and in all places.

Those who support the violent status quo would have us arm ourselves. When we are all armed, we will finally have full security from each other. No longer will we need to relate to each other as anything other than a possible threat. We will all be rogue actors within the indistinguishable morass of violence we have created together.

Violence is our purpose and our aim. It is our revelation. Our telos. Our eschaton. Our apocalypse. Violence gives meaning to our lives. We should expect it at every moment.