CARES Act money changes lives for those fallen out of the system

Shorty hasn’t paid taxes in years, isn’t receiving any government assistance and doesn’t even have an ID. She’s not in the system; the government doesn’t even know she exists. Still, FINALLY, we managed to get her CARES Act check, and the result was life-changing.

Shorty has evacuated her sidewalk tent and is now living in her Nissan Pathfinder.

Star Tribune op-ed: the picture of poverty in LA and El Salvador is not so different

We tend to think of a place like El Salvador as very different from the U.S. and its famously lauded cities. But my latest op-ed column for the Minneapolis Star Tribune examines the stark similarities in treatment of the very poor from one border to the next.

In many ways, the poverty evident in Skid Row, Los Angeles, is some of the world’s most egregious.

Read my column here.

The violent reality of Skid Row “evictions”

Shorty and Skid Row continue to teach me about white privilege

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Since I’ve been reporting in Skid Row, I’ve been working w/ Shorty to achieve the tools necessary to receive her rightful CARES Act check & change her situation.⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ Homelessness is destructive in its ability to keep one on the treadmill; to plunder one’s energy and redirect it: toward immediate safety & possession protection, toward accessing food, water, a place to use the bathroom, a tarp to keep off the rain.⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ But as I’ve witnessed, those aren’t the only challenges. ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ Yesterday, when Shorty & I were doing errands — going to check her mail, attempting to sign her up for various programs, to retrieve an ID — I was well aware that I was getting a different response than she typically does, trying to execute these seemingly simple tasks alone. ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ While waiting in line, she looked at me. “When I’m with you, suddenly doors are open,” she said.⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ In my shame & embarrassment, I said something stupid: “There’s power in numbers,” But Shorty, ever sharp & perceptive, corrected me. “No,” she said, running a finger down the white skin of my arm. “It’s this.” ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ As Minneapolis and the country suffers yet another tragedy this week, mourning— to quote Ta-Nehisi Coates — the way that racism reduces to violence landing on the black body, I’ve been thinking about my time in Skid Row. ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ There, as one of the few white people around, I operate under a completely different standard; held to a different set of rules, even if I don’t always recognize it in the moment — the very definition of privilege. When the cops roll through, they see me differently; friends have kidded about handing me their beers should trouble arise. It’s a joke, but it’s not.⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ But my experiences w/ Shorty have reminded me, viscerally, that physical force isn’t the only violence that lands on the black body. That the systematic distrust, dismissal & rebuke of POCs serve to bring individuals down & keep them there. That doesn’t always equal death, but it certainly impacts life. ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ I am learning every day: to acknowledge my own privilege, to use it for change; to see my own failure to do so & all the ways I feed into this broken system. I promise to keep trying. ❤️

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Santa Monica police chief still has no answers, shifts blame five days after Sunday catastrophe

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Today, during a peaceful protest at Santa Monica, CA’s city hall, questions were lobbed at police chief Cynthia Renaud, who took the megaphone despite have stunningly little to say. ⁣ ⁣ Five days after Sunday’s catastrophe, in which police forces first open-fired with tear gas canisters and rubber bullets on peaceful protesters while designating woefully few resources to address the separately occurring looting and destruction, Renaud had the audacity to announce she was aware that “in some cities, in some states,” the police have shown racism and acted aggressively and wrongfully toward the civilian population. All the while, tank-like vehicles and officers garbed in military fatigues lined the perimeter of unarmed protesters. ⁣ ⁣ It was remarkable that she agreed to speak having clearly thought so little about what to say, and even more incredible to hear that she seems to believe the current movement against police brutality that is sweeping the nation has nothing to do with her innocent police force, which by the way, intentionally shot me in the foot with a rubber bullet on Sunday, along with many others, who fared much worse. She even had the nerve to bring a black officer to the center stage with her (though not allowing him to talk) as she declared “We are the Santa Monica police Dept. This is what we look like.” ⁣ ⁣ The crowd, booing loudly, was not entertained. Neither am I. If Sunday’s chaos didn’t prove ineptitude, her inability to apologize for the massive errors — or even recognize or reckon with them publicly — certainly did. 😤 #FireCynthiaRenaud #santamonicaprotest #defundthepolice #laprotest #santamonicapolice

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The state of policing: does “protect and serve” still apply?

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Yesterday in Santa Monica, as the protest we’d been a part of for hours continued peacefully, the police was pulling on gas masks.⁣ ⁣ Like everyone, I couldn’t help but watch them as they faced off with the people they’ve promised to serve and protect. Some of the cops pulled batons from their holsters, gripped their pellet guns as if just looking for a reason to shoot. Others seemed as though they were attempting to embody “neutral” amidst this dystopian show of militant antagonism. ⁣ ⁣ But if that was ever possible, it certainly no longer is.⁣ ⁣ I believe there are members of the police who are trying to be good humans. Some, when they signed up to be a cop, probably believed they were doing something good & helpful for society. Many probably never dreamed they’d be in a situation like yesterday; charged with shutting down peaceful protests, representing and protecting — rather than the community at large — fellow officers who have been exposed on camera breaking the law in horrendous ways.⁣ ⁣ But let’s be honest, this isn’t working. Police indoctrination is broken. The training model is broken. The procedure is broken. The values are broken. The culture is broken. Innocent black Americans are dying at a rate that should infuriate us all.⁣ ⁣ Now, part of an officer’s job includes tear gassing and shooting innocent, peaceful protesters with rubber bullets, as the police did yesterday, shortly after pulling on the masks. The pressure is higher than ever and yet I can’t believe we haven’t seen *more* officers step down right now. Are you all really OK with defending and validating this system?? Can you sleep at night??⁣ ⁣ If you are an officer who is trying to do good in the world, please don’t delude yourself into believing you can spur change from the inside; like a cancer, healing cannot come from within the very forces that created it; the immune system is too weak, the cancer is too strong. It takes something destructive, like chemotherapy, ravaging the entire system in hopes the cancer is rooted out, too.⁣ ⁣ It’s time to reconsider whether being a part of the police means protecting and serving as the oath says — or if it means the opposite.

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Peaceful Santa Monica protests, until law enforcement arrived