Abolitionism and the Police

Abolish the police and, until then, defund them.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about this whole abolishing thing because if you’ve heard this before and gotten concerned about it, then we need to have a talk.

Let me preface this with a very important fact: I’m a black man in the USA.

It's me. I'm black as hell.

The common response to abolishing the police is “But then who will protect us from the bad guys” in a country where everyone is aware that the actions of the police have led to very different conversations as children about them and how we are to respond to them.

All of mine as a child and to this very moment as an adult is the following: don’t do things that will make them kill you. I tried to ask for a comprehensive list of what those things are, but the answer changes with every bullet fired. Thus far, I have the consistent answer of “hm… if you don’t exist, that works pretty well.”

A system that only sees me as worthy of life if I don’t exist is a broken one.

I shouldn’t have to cease to be in order to avoid violence at the hands of people whose job it is to uphold the law. If the law itself means to do violence against me for existing, we can upend that while we’re at it. It has been done thousands of times over thousands of years. However, for some reason, we can’t seem to apply this simple logic when it comes to the police even when they are clearly in the wrong.

Even when it’s multiple times. Even when it is filmed so we can all see, together, how wrong it is. Even when the United Nations gets involved.

Well, that’s unfortunate, but… I need to understand why death should be an immediate response to anything. We are watching the police abuse their power on a national scale and in particular over the last three months since the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Tony McDade, and counting, but somehow it is expected that if I should meet these police officers, that I obey them without question.

Y’all literally will not wear a mask to a store to save lives because you don’t see a reason to, but I am expected to obey orders without question from a police officer who might just escalate a situation to justify killing me anyway. The same police who know a 17-year old killed two pople and didn’t even so much as take them into custody.

Okay, but they do this to a lot of people. This isn’t a race thing. So it stands to reason that we should do our part as citizens to stop that. The police are not executioners.

Also, while we’re here: why is this acceptable? Why are we okay with police doing this to anyone? What purpose does that serve? Oh, well there is that thing where we just expect the police to only do this to bad and undesirable people. Somehow, this always ends up being brown people.

Oh, but those people were bad people with warrants and things you don’t know about, so maybe check the facts first. Here’s a fact check for you: our actual representatives are also getting abused by these same people. People standing in solidarity with people exercising their constitutional right to free speech via protest are being served warrants for arrest.

Further? We have a process for people who do a crime. It’s called a court of law where their innocence or guilt, and an appropriate punishment are determined. Exactly how does that system work in which every brown person or anyone that tries to help the brown people just get murdered out of pocket?

Bonus: people shouldn’t just die even if they are guilty of things and it is the surest sign you’re a shitty person if an appropriate response to death for you is mentioning someone’s criminal record.

More than any of the above? Abolishing things and abolitionists aren’t new. It goes back to anti-slavery publications in 1688. Back to publication of The Liberator in 1831. It goes back to the Frederick Douglas. It goes back to women’s suffrage. The ability to look at institutions that harm and oppress or no longer serve us and create a future without them goes back for centuries so again:

I shouldn’t have to cease to be in order to avoid violence at the hands of people whose job it is to uphold the law. If the law itself means to do violence against me for existing, we can upend that while we’re at it. It has been done thousands of times over thousands of years.

If you’re going to spend the time to ask “What are we going to do if we don’t have police?!”, understand that the systems by which these things could be made possible already exist with decades of thought and writing and in one notable time in which it was attempted and effective, the FBI showed up to shut it down because brown people having things is bad.

Understand that system we have doesn’t work now. This is already hurting people. People are being executed for sport and pat on the back as they do. Police are arresting people without cause and detaining them without reason. They are already dangerous. They are not safe. They have not been safe for most of us and especially not for me. We can do better than that.

The question isn’t what we will do, the question is why you would rather have the police run rampant with money to buy weapons more powerful than law enforcement should have – sonic cannons able to permanently damage hearing, tear gas which is illegal in war but somehow legal for citizens, military gear as non-military personnel, and thousands of dollars that could be used for paying teachers what they are actually worth, mental health services, any type of social program.

Nah. Fuck that. Throw the whole thing away.