By Teka Lark (June 24, 2019)
Direct action is a tool that should only be used when it needs to be used. Protesting with a permit is not direct action. Anytime you appeal to authority in a way that puts them in the position of reasonable, you’re not doing direct action.
What is direct action? When you resist with your body or with your wallet. The Montgomery Bus Boycott is an example of direct action.
The most effective direct actions understand that the system is corrupt and unreasonable, not parts of the system, the ENTIRE system and people resist accordingly. i.e. You can’t call the police on ICE.
I have been involved in three direct actions in my life, both involved law enforcement and children. I taught little kids in the fall, but in the summer I taught bigger children. When I went from teaching in the wealthiest schools in LA to some of the most economically oppressed, I realized I needed some kind of code to guide me, one of them was I don’t help the police and I don’t help LA Migra (now ICE), because I was not in education to make things worse.
One time I refused to let the police interrogate my student, even after the police got in my face and told me I was “a ‘stupid’ woman for dealing with ‘thugs’ and to not call them when I found that out who I was dealing with.” I told the police and my principal that they weren’t going to violate my student’s rights and they explained, “We can interview minors without a parent present.” And I said, “The laws of this stolen country don’t guide me and I do not consent to a searching of my classroom.”
I didn’t know whether that was within my rights or not, but I just knew they weren’t questioning my student alone while I was in charge. We already know what happens to teenage Black boys when the cops think they did something. To my surprise the police actually left, they left pissed, but they left, all because I said no, because they so rarely hear no, at least from a Black woman with a college degree, who was supposed to be vetted to be “one of the good ones.”
Another time was when I was teaching poetry at a community day school. The police came in my classroom for a student who was in the bathroom. They said, “Where is James?” And I said, “He didn’t come to school today? Is there a message you have for him?”
The third involved La Migra and a parent and I can’t discuss it.
I do not believe in the prison industrial complex and I will not cooperate or abet in putting someone in the hands of the police.
In my life I have always thought if I could just convince more people to stand up with me, we could really do so much to prevent injustice.
This brings us to current day. The #ICERaids are delayed, but they aren’t stopping, they never will. The point of #ICERaids is to terrorize people into shutting up, so they can be exploited. As Adam Serwer said in regards to Trump, “The cruelty is the point.”
What I really want you to do now is to understand your power. When you are on social media, when you watch the news, what they are trying to do is take away your courage, take away your power, to convince you that YOU CAN NOT make a difference. I know for a fact that is a lie.
If we all understood our power, we could stop injustice. When ICE comes for your neighbor (regardless of who is president), I don’t want you to go on FB Live and record them taking your neighbor away, then edit music into it, and share it with thoughtful words of how angry you are, what you need to do is to STOP them.
We all occupy different spaces in oppression, currently your job is this, if ICE comes for someone in your physical space you need to do whatever you can to stop them from taking away the person in their custody. Get creative, but we need to all mentally prepare ourselves that ICE doesn’t work, because we’re not going to let it work.
We all say:
If it was during Jim Crow, I would have…
If it was during Slavery, I would have…
If it was WW2, I would have been fighting the NAZis like Josephine Baker…
Here is your chance to put on your best lipstick and do something. They can’t arrest everyone, not if we all decide that no one is going anywhere.
Direct action, it will work, if we all agree that is what we’re doing.
So you agree, right?