There’s a cultural idea that having someone looking over our shoulder makes us behave better. From fake security cameras to Elf on the Shelf, the common belief goes that if we’re being watched, we’ll be slightly more decent people.
A 1985 Portland protest seen in new film Arresting Power has the same message as protests today.
While millions of Americans have recently turned out in the streets to protest racial bias in policing, some activists have been busily documenting those protests. Over the past four years, the three women team of co-directors behind new documentaryArresting Power: Resisting Police Violence in Portland put together an 84-minute film that feels like an oral history of police brutality in one city.
The movements that have arisen recently to challenge racism and violence in our justice system have created not only discussion and outrage, but a cultural shift. Out of racism and violence and sexism has come creativity: songs, chants, art, policy ideas, creative ways to push back against power and reimagine the way our world can be. On today’s show, we’re looking at the culture that has grown from recent protests—in Portland, in New York, in St. Louis, San Francisco, and Cleveland—from art made on the streets to songs that wind up at the Academy Awards.
First, writer Tasha Fierce reads an essay that will be published in the upcoming Law & Order issue of Bitch exploring the history of black women leading civil rights movements—from the 1960s all the way to Black Lives Matter. Then, we listen through a growing archive of protest chants and think about how future historians will look back on today’s protests. Finally, musician and writer Jordannah Elizabeth makes us a mixtape of current protest music.
Last night, thousands of people protested the failure to indict the police officer who killed Eric Garner. Photo by David Bledsoe.
One hundred and twenty-two years ago, Ida B. Wells, an African American journalist who reported on the horrors carried out by white lynch mobs against Southern blacks, penned a oft-pronounced slogan that still rings true today: “This is a white man's country and the white man must rule.”
A Portland police officer hugs 12-year-old Devonte Hart at a Ferguson protest in Portland, Oregon, last week. Devonte was holding a sign offering free hugs and the officer asked to take him up on the idea. Photo by Johnny Nguyen.
I waited three months to hear the phrase—the phrase that etched another devastating moment into the history of America. When it finally came, I prayed for the Brown family, who had to endure a painful Thanksgiving dinner with one less light at the table.
In the wake of Ferguson, Black Friday takes on a whole new meaning.
I recall with stunning clarity that day in 1992 when the Rodney King beating verdict came down. An all-white jury in Simi Valley pronounced that a gang of police officers was not guilty for beating an unarmed black man nearly to death, despite the fact that a bystander caught the whole ugly incident on video.