This Magazine

Progressive politics, ideas & culture

November-December 2020

Change is coming

Our November/December editor's letter

Tara-Michelle Ziniuk

I am writing this days after the world learned that the officers who murdered Breonna Taylor would not be charged. People have noted that this was announced on the exact date Emmett Till’s killers were cleared of charges 65 years earlier. We’ve long been relying on systems meant to do exactly what they’ve been doing. Some things change, other things desperately need to.

For good reason, we are living in a time of heavy grief. But, from that grief comes action. Change is being made. Police departments are being defunded. Cops are being kicked out of schools. What “safety” means is being reimagined, and the long, hard, work of years of activism is paying o on a larger scale than what many previously thought possible.

In her feature on art-making as part of the movement for Black lives, Jessica P. Kirk asks us to understand where we are in the movement. She also urges us to recognize the role of artists as part of political organizing. And she’s not the only one making these connections. In an interview with Eve L. Ewing in adi magazine, organizer and prison abolitionist Mariame Kaba says “cultural work is an organic part of organizing, even when organizers don’t know it.” Artists are always there,
she confirms. “They’re there as the people to help us think through it. Why does this have to be? … You can dream a future. We need that so desperately in the world.”

This dream of a future is exactly what Syrus Marcus Ware picks up on in his cover story on reaching abolition in our lifetime. On an episode of Democracy Now in spring 2020, scholar and abolitionist Ruth Wilson Gilmore says, “Abolition seeks to undo the way of thinking and doing things that sees prison and punishment as solutions for all kinds of social, economic, political, behavioral, and interpersonal problems.” We want to divest from policing literally, and the policing that happens
in institutions: education, mental health, and housing settings among them. We want to reinvest in community-based solutions that account for harm and the potential for harm, but that focus on resources to reduce the likelihood of harm taking place and to keep communities thriving. “It is not a pie-in-the-sky dream,” Gilmore says. “It is actually something that is practical and achievable.”

A new world is as personal as it is political. In her essay on names and naming, Minelle Mahtani reflects on the world she grew up in, and the one she brought her son into. The world we exist in now, where something as simple seeming as a name has social and racial implications and ramifications. It might seem like a stretch to connect these ideas here, but I’d argue that they’re all connected by the ways they’re influenced by white supremacy.

At the end of the day, we’re ready for change. We’ve been ready for change. We’re beyond ready for people to internalize the idea that major, global upheaval is necessary—and, thankfully, many are. As Ware says, “change is coming.”

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