Not Oprah’s Book Club: The Revolution Starts at Home

Cover of The Revolution Starts at HomeThe Revolution Starts at Home, a new anthology from South End Press and Editors Ching-In Chen, Jai Dulani and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha tries to address a really difficult and often unspoken problem: intimate violence within activist communities.

The book addresses the reality that being activists, being progressive, having radical politics, does not shield one from the cycles of violence and abuse that pervade all communities. At times, we even experience violence from others within the activist community.

TRSH begins with the understanding that the criminal legal system is not the place that many feel it is effective or useful to go for help. This book also explains how those systems are more often harmful than helpful.

It focuses on stories of the alternative ways to address intimate violence–ways that don’t involve calling the police or using the criminal legal system. It focuses on things like community accountability: “any strategy to address violence, abuse or harm that creates safety, justice, reparations, and healing, without relying on policy, prisons, childhood protective services, or any other state systems.”

It is an intense book, not one that can be read in one sitting, but one that should be come back to time and time again to try and find inspiration and hope in the successes and strategies of those trying to operate differently.

An understanding of why the criminal legal system is not the place where many of us can go for safety or security is not part of mainstream feminist or progressive politics. This divide is often a result of race or class privilege, because those whose families and communities have been targeted by the police and other state agencies understand intimately why the criminal legal system does more harm than good. This book speaks to those activists who are searching for alternatives, apart from calling the police, from simply locking up abusers and those who commit violence.

The US incarcerates more people than any other country in the world, and still we are not safe. Still, every day, the members of our communities suffer at the hands of parents, loved ones, partners, strangers. The growing criminal legal system has not made our world safer, and it has instead propagated a long cycle of violence and imprisonment for low-income people, immigrants and people of color.

We need different solutions. We need to take back community safety, we need to find ways to make our world a better place without using violence to fight violence. It’s not an easy task, and often find myself asking: what are the alternatives? This book offers some much needed ideas, experiences and strategies to build from. It’s the starting point for a vital conversation.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted June 8, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    OH GOOD. I’ve heard of one too many instances, at least locally, of “oh he couldn’t have done that because he has all the right politics on A B C and D.” in the activist community.

  2. Posted June 8, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    In our haste to show the world specific places that need to be fixed, we can sometimes turn that passion and urgency onto ourselves. I myself have learned that the existing criminal justice system is slow, creaky, time consuming, and overly complicated. In an ideal setting (and as activists, we seek the ideal) we should resolve disputes among ourselves.

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