Over the past week, I’ve spent more time learning and educating myself on the state of America more in-depth than I have in a long time. As a student, I felt like I was always being inundated with information and knowledge that, while helpful, oftentimes never tied directly to what was going on in the world. For every six weeks we’d spend in class covering a white author or political theorist, we’d spend two class periods talking about W.E.B Du Bois, or two class periods covering Beauvoir or no time at all.
Weirdly, it feels like I’m going through a similar transformative re-education I went through almost two summers ago when learning about the criminal legal system. I learned about mandatory minimums, drug possession charges, how the death penalty was inhumane and unjust, and why we cannot place faith into institutions to hold themselves accountable to one another. I never fully grasped all of the problems that the world had until I was willing to interrogate myself. I had to make myself vulnerable to realizing the fact that I did not know much, that my lack of awareness surrounding certain issues is points of growth and not just weaknesses. I cannot begin to help form and shape the world I want to be a part of if I’m not willing to concede where I am wrong and where I do not know things.
The past week, I’ve been looking at the role of policing, and in the questioning of my beliefs, I’m trying to evaluate what about policing makes me feel safe and vulnerable. What about punishing people to address the harm that people feel? What about policing does anything to address the grievances or prevention of sed harm? What about punishment leads to us seeing the change we want to see? I’ve been trying to push myself to think outside of the box by listening to the predominately Black women abolitionists who have been at the forefront of this movement. I am listening and reading more from those who know far more about these issues because I know I don’t know anywhere near enough. The second I feel like I know everything is the moment I lose any chance of taking steps towards a society I want to see in the world.
I won’t deny that it isn’t easy and it never will be easy to unlearn and retrain my brain to question my reality. I am asking myself to question and re-evaluate the previous eighteen years of my life through a new lens. But I am fortunate enough to be able to make this change. I recognize that I have the resources or time to devote to spending most of my summer just reading about the world. That being said, to see so many educators working on ways to break down all of these issues in such a simple way makes all this information accessible. That’s what is just. Everyone should, regardless of whether they have 5 hours or 5 minutes, have the opportunity to learn how to live in a more equitable society. Whether your focus is on PIC (prison industrial complex) abolition, equal access to health care, or stronger history programs in schools, there is a lane for you in this movement if you want to be a part of it.
Being in conversation with people who are tackling different aspects of these fights, especially those not in academia but on the ground fighting, are where I’m learning the most. It’s through essays by people I have only just discovered. It’s through webinars on YouTube of grassroots organizations. I know my journey of two years thus far into understanding the institutions that shape our views of the world is still in its infancy. However, that doesn’t mean that I ever should get discouraged by that alone. It’s just a sign for me to continue writing, continue reading, and continue living.
If you want to learn more about abolition, visit 8toabolition.com
Being Noah Tesfaye #136: Learning about Why I View the World the Way I Do
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