by bigg villainus
As I’m preparing to leave Seattle, I will live out of my car and travel the nation advocating for prison abolition and building solidarity with other abolitionist communities. And as I prepare to leave, a haunting thought sets in. I am once again going to be houseless, in a pandemic no less.
I will not be houseless in the traditional way — though I will still be in poverty. Due to the networks I have access to, I will have roofs over my head. Yet the thought of houselessness still triggers the fear that I will once again find myself sleeping outside — like I did when I was young.
As I drive through Seattle in my final days here, I look around at the vast cities of the displaced. Those who are forced to live out of tents and even boxes, many of whom were not in this situation before the pandemic. I see myself in them, how I’m cut from the same cloth as many sleeping in these encampments. And despite my best efforts, that may be me again if I make one misstep or if Lady Luck moves against me.
When I travel to Olympia, Portland, LA, Albuquerque, and Denver, I realize this isn’t just cities of the displaced, but a nation of the displaced. It’s a result of a colonization and the illegitimate colonial government that controls this land through violence and tyranny. Many of the people who make up these displaced cities are of the African diaspora, those whose ancestors were stolen from their homelands and then expelled to the margins when they were no longer being used as a free labor source.
Many are Indigenous and First Nations people who had their land pillaged and robbed from them and who are experiencing an ongoing genocide. People who are left with nowhere to live on homelands where they have been stewards for thousands and thousands of years. People dreaming of shelter on land that is rightfully theirs.
When I was in LA, I took the time to walk around Skid Row, and it was our people struggling. It was our people suffering and pushing to find joy or relief in the moment. The cruelest reality is that there are 31 vacant houses for every one houseless person in the U.S. Despite the threat of climate change, there is still an abundance of food within this empire. However, for some reason, the wealthiest system on the planet desires to have houselessness. Mainly, there have to be houseless people to keep the housing market artificially inflated. Don’t you just love kkkapitalism?
With prison being used as a source of slave labor, we see kkkapital using prisons and jails as a solution to houselessness. The oligarchs have a profit incentive to run this system, a profit that comes with a hefty price tag for taxpayers — and a much heftier price for the victims of the prison industrial complex.
After LA, I took the long journey to Albuquerque. Once there, I was talking with a comrade about how the police threw them out of their house — giving them only 15 minutes to grab their stuff. Due to community support, they were able to acquire a new house. However, most are not that lucky. The threat of violent removal from your home is a constant impending threat for the marginalized. And it dawned on me that this is just a further manifestation of colonization; that it’s the empire asserting its dominance and upholding a stratified reality. That stratified reality is how the empire maintains its military and cheap labor sources. For those who can’t fit into those two categories, the streets or prison/slavery is your home. For many, it’s just a revolving cycle of incarceration and houselessness.
This is no longer just a side effect but an essential product of kkkapitalism. We now see a dystopian reality, one where to simply have housing is a sign of opulence, while we have people like Jeff Bezos profiting off that very same suffering.
So what can we really do? Well, if Albuquerque taught me anything, it’s that it is up to us to look for ways to exist outside the State and its structures. We must uplift our peoples and build alternative structures that provide for the needs of our community. I saw it in Albuquerque, in the massive mutual aid networks that provided food, furniture, and places to stay for their community members, despite the pressure of the system.
Together, we can see the humanity of those who are in dire straits. We can see that today it may be “them,” but tomorrow it may be us. This isn’t just a battle against poverty, but a battle for our humanity. At the end of the day, the future won’t be made in penthouses but on the curbs and corners. It will be made in the gutters and the recesses of our society. The fate of those at the bottom will eventually be the fate of all.
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