Friday, March 21, 2008

A quandary

We have had a strange and disconcerting week. I am taking today off to re-coop and because I needed some time to myself--something I really do not get much of.

Last night I woke up at three a.m. to "i'm going to get you you fucking faggot." It was yelled at the top of some gruff, drunk,too-much testosteroned college boy's lungs who lives (or parties) across the street. I pretty much abhor the actions of those boys. They have lived there not even a full year and they party like their small-aimless-natural light-worlds are the only thing in the universe. I get doubly pissed thinking about them when I think about the sweet family that lived there before and then decided to move before selling their house; they rented to 4 college asshole boys who, once again, think that they have some innate right to party real loud every night. I dislike their antics and more than that I hate getting shocked up out of my sleep.

The words fucking faggot do not bode well with me. And they are especially troubling coming in the middle of the night since I have been sleeping on alert since tuesday night/wednesday morning when some asshole tried to break into our house as we peacefully slept in our bed.

Yep, that's right. We woke up to find our back gate open and back porch screen door pushed out and the sliding lock unlocked with the door ajar. Luckily, the audacious prick got on our porch and realized that our back door and kitchen window are not very easy to get into. As much as I try to never rely on the cops for anything at all, K and I went by the cop shop which is almost in our back yard and let them know what had happened and they let us know that a house seven doors down from ours had been broken into at 2:30 a.m. that same morning. The girl woke up to a guy crawling in her bedroom window. She screamed at him; he said "oh i thought this was my friend george's house," and then he fled on foot. Thing is nobody would slice open all the screens on his friend's house to try to get in which is what aforementioned home invader did.

The girl who got awakened to the man crawling in her window is a friend of my friends and it all really happened--the cops weren't just trying to raz us. So, we figure audacious prick tried our house first couldn't get in and so he went down the street.

Of course, I would mind if someone broke into my house and stole my shit at anytime (not necessarily for the void of the shit that might get swiped but rather because of the invasion of space), but what irks me the most is that this guy tried this when we were sleeping--when we were vulnerable. It is just stupid on his part. Come steal my shit in the day when I am at work or in the evening when I am out, but busting into my house when you full well know there are most likely people sleeping up in here, that is just dumb. He is setting himself up for a potentially violent altercation. His motive may have been to get some stuff to sell to feed his drug habit or his belly (maybe even his kid/s' bellies), but when you bust into a locked place in the middle of the night, what can you expect but possibly bumping in to a warm body and then what are you just going to run?

Besides getting irked due to invasions of what K and I have tried to make our own safe space (hearing "i'm going to get you you fucking faggot" is also an invasion of this safe space), I have been deliberating all week in my own head about the failings of the "public safety" systems we--society--have put in place and what a sham these systems are.

I think about this stuff all of the time because of the work I am engaged in on daily basis, and then when it strikes a bit closer to home--like my back porch, or front porch, or resounds on the equinox air outside my bedroom window, I begin to desire desperately to have a network of community that we can call on in times when our constructed safety is encroached upon. A network different than that of the current "justice" system. A network of people devoted to intervening to get at the root of whatever is leading another person to move into our safe space and make it feel less safe. I do not believe policing and incarceration get at the roots of the human behavior that leads to harms done among people, and even though I believe this with all of my heart, I still do not have a network or group within my community that I can call on as an alternative to the police.

This quandary takes up a lot of my thought life. It makes me question my own definitions and perceptions of safety. It makes me think of how safe I really am compared to people living in war torn countries where there is active warfare. That is not to say that there is not gun violence, other forms of physical violence, or mental violence in the town where I live, but it is not as insidious as the brutal violence connected to the warring of Iraq.

It all makes me think of the valuing of some lives over other lives. Who are the laws set up to protect? We see time and time again that they are used against poor people of all colors,people of color, people with mental illness, and queer people. Most laws are there to enforce a status quo reality that is based in a white hetero-normative foundation. And I am not just spouting theory here. I see it day in and day out. I work with people in prison who were addicted to drugs and people who sold drugs to get by, trans-people who tricked to feed themselves because they could not find jobs because of who they are, people who resorted to violence to save themselves from the violence they were surrounded by, and people with various mental illness who stumbled into the criminal "justice" system because of behaviors and actions that were deemed unlawful.

And once we cycle people through the prison system do they come out healed and whole beings? Maybe some--and that is only through their own initiative (the system does not have good programming). Mostly not. Most folks are inflicted with new experiences of trauma while inside. And then we send people back on to the streets with another identity that is also marginalized in this society--the label of felon.

I could go on and on about this, but I will stop. In the meantime, I'll keep pondering over this quandary and maybe someday--through the work of many--things will change.


birdy.j said...

That post brings up a lot of strong feelings for me. I thought it was a beautifully written commentary about the state of our community well-being. Community in the smallest and largest sense of the word.
I wanted to draw you and your readers attention to (what I believe) is an amazing policy research organization: Poverty and Race Research Action Council (
One thing in particular I wanted to note is the front page article "Race, Poverty and Incarceration" by Donald Braman in the Nov/Dec 2007 newsletter. Here is the link to the PDF- I hope you will have a moment to read this concise, articulate article that has so much to do with your blog post:
PRRAC newsletter.
Best, jbirdy

starrhillgirl said...

Fuck. I'm so sorry (for lack of a better word) that somebody tried to get into your home. And I am truly sorry (there is no other word) that there is not a sane alternative to the police.
I fool myself sometimes that my neighborhood has something like a community patrol - because we all watch out for each other, because the folks who've lived here for their whole lives don't take any shit - but then there's the sound of a woman getting beaten in a house down the street and I know none of us are a match for that and I wonder what the fuck to do.

Safe is such a funny idea - one I certainly cling to, but funny all the same. I hope your home is feeling safe again.

Mrs. Bluemont said...

Well said. I'm sorry that your safety was infringed on and that you had to face that vulnerability in the middle of the night. Although we certainly need better community networks (along with a sparkling clean justice system), know that you do have one here. It may be scattered, but there is no doubt in my mind that if you needed something, phone calls made, letters written, emotional backing, etc. there are a lot of people, in and outside of your town, that give a shit about these things and would help.


hero said...

Oh fuck, I could have written some of this today. Totally just made me burst into tears. This is not going to be eloquent because I'm effing exhausted but wanted to hash through with you for a second.

I live in Durham, NC, the site of a long long long history of everything you speak. And, a very recent history too: I teach at Du*e and dealt with all that crap last year over the la*x case. It was a perfect storm of events, and was merely triggered by one night: but the wounds, conversations, accusations, gender relations, black, white, latino relations, money, tobacco, K*K, the works, right here in my town. As soon as the charges were "dropped" the school acts as if everything was a lie: as if the reaction was merely because of that event. Those of us who were involved on campus organizing town hall meetings, trying to get curriculum changes, trying to get to the root of some of these issues (huge gender and race cleavages there), trying to talk several of our black female students into not dropping out because of the vicious, vicious language about women, women's bodies, the history of slavery and miscegenation, sex work and "rights" that were "violated." Those of us who were organizing such events and generally trying to create a school-community forum had our names published on all the right-wing blogs. That's when the hate mail began. Those of us seen as white got off pretty easy; our darker skinned friends had to be accompanied home each night. One professor had someone lunge at her at a book reading. This was all swept away, as if it didn't happen, because hey, they didn't do it, right?

It was not about just them, and the fires still burn.

A few weeks after that, I'm passed out asleep and my chill dog goes absolutely fucking mental. I stumble to the door not really thinking, and she is sprawled out in front of the door, blocking it with her body and growling. There is a guy, half way into our house, pushing the door open. Long story short, we were ok. But really, really rattled.

Cut to a two months ago, when an grad student was shot about 3 blocks from my house. Bullet between the eyes. They took his wallet and a cell phone. That's it.

Cut to two weeks ago, with the totally random death of the U^NC student. One of her alleged assailants was caught 2 blocks from me. The other escaped, and was considered "in the area." I had a police helicopter overtop of my house for 2 nights and 2 days. I thought I was going insane. Two more young kids - 17 and 21 - who are now, once again, fodder for "stricter laws" and "harsher probation" and "where were their mothers, anyway". No mention that the local schools are incredibly violent. No mention that it appears like (I never make such assumptions without first-hand knowledge, but a friend knows their families) these kids come from generational poverty, from "county residences" (read: projects) that have such fucked up and corrupt governance that single moms are routinely kicked out. No mention that a history of white capitalism in the South contributes to such massive, massive corporeal positioning such that you might as well call it neoapartheid in some parts of the city. No mention that maybe the fix isn't to keep looking at the last event as a one-time problem and that "letting him rot" (as one of the policemen suggests) is only going to assuage your own guilt.

My students want to know why when it's "equal opportunity" (oh the delusions) the prisons are filled with the people you so thoughtfully hold in your heart and in your head. I clear the schedule for a week and we do a crash-course on class, race, institutionalization, state violence and feminism. One of my students say its the first time he's known that feminism doesn't mean a lesbian with a shaved head. I go home and bawl.

Came home today. Back door swinging open. Fucking hell. What do you even do at this point? I grabbed a beer, sat on my steps, and waved at the kids (my little friends) next door.

Thanks for posting, hope you don't mind using your blog and your safe space to think through this. But I totally hear you on some other recourse. We've started community spaces (like literally for the community, not for the "community" with policies to ensure that's not what happens). But it's not a space to hash these things out, and I don't have any earthly idea how to do that either. I really want to make a banner on my door that says, "Please, What do you want? I'm on your side. Tell me what you need and I'll make it happen. For real." But then I fear they'd go next door, or down the street, like happened to you and your friend.

I'm so so so so sorry that all of this weighed so heavily this week, in the midst of blood returning, families sick, the dudes screaming ridiculous and hurtful nonsense, and life intervening. It's been rad to read your writing here, and I've only posted a few times but this one really just made me want to come over and drink a beer with you and yours on the porch. Wishing you a peaceful weekend and a safe space to call your own. Take care of you in the meantime. This was intended to be an oh-i-feel you reply, and if it's just more stressful, feel free to take it off. This is your safe space, after all and I'd be the last to want to puncture it.

Keeping you and kk in my thoughts today.

starrhillgirl said...

Just to distract you, I tagged you for a meme. Although I am sure you won't play along....

the injector said...

hey you all,
thanks for your thoughtful and helpful comments. hero, i do intend for people who read this blog to feel free to reflect and ponder on the things I write about--there is no infringement of my safe space in your comment.

Furthermore, I really wish we all talked about all of this stuff more and then really, really did something about it.

In the meantime, writing, reflecting, sharing experiences is a good starting place.

tiff said...

Wow, I am so sorry for you girls. Beautiful insights in this post though. I hope things get better and this doesn't happen to you or your neighbours - daytime OR nighttime again.