Q Chat Space is Hiring!

Have you attended a Q Chat Space group? Do you love being a part of that online, national community? If so, why not get paid to participate in groups? Q Chat Space is hiring for the role of Q Chatters (positions open to youth ages 13-19)! All work is done remotely, just like participating in Q Chat Space discussions. Access the application and check out the job descriptions here: https://qchatspace.org/Work-For-Q-Chat. The deadline to apply is November 19, 2020.

Understanding Abolition

In the midst of ongoing nationwide uprisings against police brutality, many of us are asking important questions about the nature of our country’s institutions and the role of police in America. As news of the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor as well as the shooting of Jacob Blake have circulated, there have been numerous ideas proposed as to how police brutality should be addressed. People are calling for racial sensitivity training, body cams, criminalization of certain restraint techniques. These reforms however sound all too familiar; in truth, they’ve all been tried, and yet Black people continue to be killed by police with little to no accountability. A solution gaining traction that may be new to many, however, is the idea of defunding the police

As this concept gains mainstream attention, we want to explore the potential of this proposal and the broader movement that defunding originated from. When ideologies become more mainstream, their core principles can often be diluted or lost along the way. In this case, the idea of defunding the police actually originates as just one tool of a broader ideology called prison-industrial complex abolition. In this article I hope to provide an accurate explanation of what abolition means, introduce the limitations of reform, and give you the tools to begin imagining what a future without prisons or policing may look like. I would also like to clarify however that abolition is an ever-evolving ideology and necessitates a lot of unlearning, so reading this article alone will not be enough to fully understand abolition. This is merely a starting point (recommendations for further reading are provided below).

Let’s begin by breaking down what prison industrial complex (PIC) abolition means. The PIC describes the systems of government and corporate imprisonment, policing, and surveillance. This includes but is not limited to prisons, ICE detention centers, court systems, police, etc. While many people associate the word abolition with the movement to abolish chattel slavery in America, abolition on its own simply refers to the act of ending a system or institution. So, PIC abolition is an ideology that aims to end all systems and institutions that uphold any and all forms of policing, incarceration, and surveillance. Abolition requires us to reimagine the meaning of justice and adjust the ways that we’ve been taught to think about harm and criminality.

When people are first introduced to this ideology, it can seem really extreme. Prisons and policing are such a huge part of our society and media that we often don’t question their existence. You might believe that the current system is broken, and just needs to be fixed. In reality, our current system is functioning exactly as it was designed. In the following paragraphs, I will break down how the system was created and intended to function as an inherently violent and inequitable institution while also challenging the notion that PIC abolition is naïve or impractical.

I want to begin by examining some issues with different reformist approaches to addressing police brutality. You may have heard of the 8 Can’t Wait campaign. This campaign lists eight demands for police reform and was widely circulated on social media within the last few months. Most of their demands focus on banning or restricting different types of force. Their campaign claims that implementing all of their demands will reduce police killings by 72%. This ignores the fact that some of the most violent police departments in the country already have many of these policies in place. Chicago for example, is already subject to seven of the 8 Can’t Wait policies and yet their police force continues to disproportionately kill Black people. Even if these policies were proven to be effective, which they are not, they would not be able to address the racial biases of officers (racial sensitivity training is another popular reform initiative that has been proven to be ineffective) or account for officers who might choose to ignore restrictions. Additionally, the goal of a police reform is always to reduce the amount of police violence and killings rather than eliminating it altogether. Under a PIC abolitionist framework, the goal is complete eradication of all state violence.

Rather than thinking about the PIC as a broken system, we need to understand that the system is functioning exactly as it was intended to. So, how is the system intended to function? Let’s first address the function of police. The police enforce laws created by the state (government). Therefore, they are protecting the interests of the state: capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy, etc. With this in mind, it is unsurprising that an institution intended to protect white supremacy disproportionately harms and terrorizes Black people. Think about what laws the police spend the most time and resources enforcing and what laws often go unenforced.

Let’s begin the process of rethinking what we consider a crime. Many predominant narratives of criminality are rooted in white supremacy and classism. Crime is entirely socially constructed, meaning that the definitions of what kind of behavior is and isn’t classified as criminal are completely rooted in cultural norms and values. To give some examples, “homosexual activity” was considered criminal in thirteen states until 2003. This is a prime example of the idea that criminalizing something does not necessarily mean it is immoral or even harmful. Additionally, crime can also be constructed in a way that intentionally targets very specific people in order to satisfy very specific interests of the state. A major example of this is the racialized history of American drug laws. Drug laws have been explicitly created to justify the mass incarceration of Black and brown people. One of the most glaring instances of this was Nixon’s war on drugs, which disproportionately criminalized crack vs. powder cocaine. While these are essentially the same drug, just in different forms, the sentencing for crack cocaine distribution is 100 times that of the sentencing for an equivalent amount of powder cocaine. This is no coincidence–in fact, the Nixon administration definitively used the war on drugs as a tool against Black communities. Nixon’s own advisor infamously said “You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities.”

For all of these reasons, many PIC abolitionists prefer to talk about inflicted violence, injury, or otherwise immoral acts in terms of harm rather than criminality. This perspective centers victims rather than perpetrators and does not moralize “crimes” like loitering, or graffiti that do not directly harm people or communities–these are also examples of laws that have been and continue to be used to disproportionately arrest and incarcerate Black people. This framework also allows us to acknowledge harms that are currently considered legal and therefore acceptable behaviors because they uphold the interests of the most powerful and privileged members of society. For instance, wage theft (while technically illegal is rarely enforced) and gentrification do very real harm to those affected by it, but both of these actions uphold capitalism and white supremacy.

Our current criminal justice system could more accurately be described as a criminal punishment system. While many people think that the goal of prisons is to reform “criminals,” this is simply inaccurate. Our current system is retributive (based on principles of revenge). Improving the conditions in prisons or restricting officers’ use of certain chokeholds does not do anything to fundamentally shift the way in which we conceive of justice. PIC abolitionists instead envision a system of justice that is built to facilitate the personal growth of the perpetrator and repair the harm done to the victim.

There are several common questions that come up for people when they begin to consider a world without prisons or policing. People want to know what system will replace the PIC. They want to know what will happen to people who commit murder or sexual violence. I am going to attempt to briefly address these questions now. It’s easy to jump to a worst-case scenario and conjure up images of violent criminals being loosed on the population. Imprisonment does not do anything to address the circumstances that led to an instance of violence and does not do anything to repair the harm done to those affected. Also, the PIC almost always exacerbates harm in instances of sexual violence, intimate partner violence, or hate-based violence. The existing system is not adequately addressing these harms, so why not imagine a better alternative?

What would an abolitionist system look like? I don’t know exactly. One of the biggest problems with the current system is that it applies the same system of punishment to all kinds of different “crimes” that deserve individualized approaches. In an abolitionist future we might have free voluntary rehab facilities instead of imprisonment for drug usage. We might have restorative or transformative justice practices in certain situations of harm.

What is transformative and restorative justice? These are two slightly different approaches to repairing harm, that are already being practiced in many communities as an alternative to the criminal punishment system. Restorative justice especially centers the victim and their needs. The goal is for the victim to lead the process of addressing and repairing the harm. Transformative justice is similar, but it is more focused on addressing the wider social systems that led to the harm.

PIC abolition is not going to happen overnight. The goal is to gradually transition away from retributive systems of justice. Along the way, we can take gradual steps—intuitive, positive ones like reducing police budgets, decriminalizing drugs and sex work, and eliminating solitary confinement and capital punishment. PIC abolition prioritizes preventative harm interventions. Some important factors in prevention are community accountability, networks of financial support, and access to free healthcare. It is important that we work holistically towards the development of an effective and sustainable PIC-free future. One important step towards abolition you can take right now is beginning to deconstruct the cop inside your head. Who do cops protect? Try to deconstruct the punitive impulses you might have within your own interpersonal relationships and community. Work towards developing a restorative framework of interaction with the people around you.

 

About the author:

Oliver is a senior at NC State University studying Gender Studies and Psychology. He is currently interning at the LGBT Center of Raleigh. His is passionate about understanding the histories and ideologies of different liberatory movements.

 

Sources:

 

*The full PDF of this book is not available online for free. This link is for the first essay in the volume, “Building an Abolitionist Trans and Queer Movement with Everything We’ve Got”.

Real Talk

Real Talk crowdsources authentic teen stories on topics like puberty, bullying, identity, and mental health and connects teens with additional resources. It’s is a community for teens packed with real stories about cringey moments. Browse through stories, search for topics that matter most to you, and use emojis to share your reactions. You can also share your own story directly in the app – it’s as easy as texting with a friend.

Real Talk aims for all teens to have the information, resources, and support they need to be healthy, regardless of who they are or where they live. Try the app!

Online GSA Youth Trainings

The GSA Network is hosting two virtual GSA trainings! These meetups are for youth in grades 6-12 or ages 18 or under.

 

Virtual GSAs 101 (September 10 @ 7 PM ET):

Looking for advice on how to run your GSA club/LGBTQ+ youth space online? Are you overwhelmed with the thought of having to figure things out on your own?

Well if you are a Trans or Queer youth, then this is the space for you!

Welcome to the Trans & Queer Youth Virtual Power Training Series! These are bi-weekly online training for youth looking to LEVEL UP their leadership skills and confidence!! We really do believe that y’all can make an impact in your schools and communities and it starts with a meeting.

For this first training session, we will cover ways to plan and shape your GSA club/LGBTQ+ youth space in a virtual setting. Together, we will learn the building blocks to setting up an intentional youth led space for you and your friends. By the end of this training, you will walk away with clear next steps to hosting your own virtual space.

We will also introduce new online GSA Network programs and we want to hear what support you might need at this moment.

Sign up here!

 

Leading GSAs & Owning It! (September 24 @ 7 PM ET): 

Looking for more help around starting a virtual space for Trans and Queer youth then come through!!!

Welcome to the Trans & Queer Youth Virtual Power Training Series! These are bi-weekly online trainings for youth looking to LEVEL UP their leadership skills and confidence!! We really do believe that y’all can make an impact in your schools and communities and it starts with meeting.

For this second training session, we will share skills on how to recruit new members and keep them coming back. We will introduce you to some outreach tools, practice together and build our confidence in speaking to others. Additionally, we will introduce ideas to keep your meetings engaging, fun and entertaining in a virtual setting.

Sign up here!

Q Chat Space

Find and give support, have fun, connect around shared interests and get good information. Chat with like-minded peers in live chats designed for you & by you, facilitated by folks who care.

Q Chat Space provides online discussion groups for LGBTQ+ teens ages 13 to 19. It is not a forum. It is live and chat based; there is no video or audio. Everyone is chatting during the same pre-scheduled time.

Conversations are facilitated by experienced staff who work at LGBTQ+ centers around the country including Time Out Youth in Charlotte.

For more information visit their website: https://www.qchatspace.org/

Pride Month History: Stormé DeLarverie

King Stormé

Stormé DeLarverie is most well known for being the first person to throw a punch a stonewall. Although there is dispute over the validity of this assertion, his contributions to the queer community are indisputable. DeLarverie was a biracial he/him lesbian.* He was an entertainer, protector, and revolutionary. In the 50s and early 60s he traveled the country as a drag king with the Jewel Box Revue, North America’s first racially integrated drag revue. After Stonewall he worked as a bouncer at several lesbian bars in Greenwich Village and was known to patrol the whole area for any “ugliness,” his word for intolerance or abuse. DeLarverie was also a founding member of the Stonewall Veterans Association, and served as vice president for several years.

 

DeLarverie posing with the Stonewall car.

 

*Although many sources continue use she/her pronouns, the Stonewall Veterans Association has identified he/him as DeLarverie’s preferred pronouns.

Pride Month History: Bayard Rustin

Bayard Rustin was an openly gay leader in the civil rights movement. His career as an activist began at very young age. He grew up in a house where activists like W.E.B. Du Bois and James Weldon Johnson were frequent guests. Rustin was active in the socialist party. He organized freedom rides to protest the unconstitutional segregation of public buses. He is most well known for his collaboration with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Together they founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Although he was officially listed as the second in command, Rustin was the key organizer of the famous 1963 March on Washington. This march drew a quarter of a million people, and was the cite of King’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech. In the 1970s Rustin focused more of his energy on labor organizing. Although he wasn’t directly involved in the queer liberation movement until the 1980s, he was open about his sexuality throughout the majority of his tenure as an activist.

 

Although he was open about his sexuality, Rustin was not able to make that choice for himself. He was arrested in 1953 and charged with sodomy. Because his sexuality was made public after the arrest, his contributions to civil rights were primarily behind the scenes as many of his colleagues saw him as a “liability”. Throughout his career as an activist he was silenced, arrested, and beaten. His former partner from 1940, Davis Platt, described how Rustin never “felt any shame or guilt about his homosexuality. That was rare in those days. Rare.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pride Month History: Marsha P Johnson

 

The P stands for “Pay it no mind”

 

[CW mention of suicide]

Marsha P Johnson was a black trans activist. She participated in the Stonewall riots, and was a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front. Johnson, along with Sylvia Rivera, was a co-founder of Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (S.T.A.R.). S.T.A.R. was a radical group that advocated for revolution not compromise. S.T.A.R. also operated as a social services organization that provided housing, food, and clothes to gay and trans street youth.

 

Sylvia Rivera (left) and Marsha P Johnson (right)

 

Both Johnson and Rivera were seen as radicals by many within the gay liberation movement. Johnson was constantly fighting against exclusion from within the movement, on the basis of her gender, race, and commitment to liberation over acceptance. She remained involved in street activism throughout her life, and was an active member of ACT UP during the height of the AIDS pandemic. On July 6th 1992 Johnson’s body was found in the Hudson River. The police ruled her death a suicide, but those close to her were confident that she had been murdered. There is no evidence that Johnson was ever suicidal, and those close to her cited an increase in harassment shortly before her death. She will be remembered for her kindness and bold conviction, in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.