July 7, 2020
We are in a new era. The demand to defund the police, while not universally understood, has changed the Overton Window, the range of ideas the public is willing to consider as viable options. However, even with a groundswell of support for change, there is no consensus on what it should be.
Defund the police, abolish the police, abolish prisons—each has a different meaning but all point to a recognition that these systems are not serving the needs of all Americans. In fact, many would argue that from the start, they were intended to be used against certain populations, or at least to control them. In this sense, they are serving their intended purpose, which is why prisons and policing as institutions need to be replaced.
Yet, even as radical as these changes might sound, they do not go far enough if they do not confront systemic racism that negatively affects communities. Systemic racism, at its core, denies resources and opportunities of some to the benefit of white citizens at all levels: education, housing, employment and economic development, health and wellness. Systemic racism results in public investment in well-off communities, providing an array of opportunities while denying those opportunities in low-income communities, often comprised of a majority of people of color. Instead of investing in these communities, public resources are used to create control mechanisms (policing) and reactionary responses (homeless shelters, foodbanks, etc.).
What is the alternative we are trying to create? What does it look like if we defund or abolish the police? What are the new systems? Rinku Sen does an excellent job articulating the many forms of resistance that people raise about #DefundThePolice as a strategy. Despite the resistance, she proclaims it as a genius strategy. As an organizing strategy it shifted accountability to specific people who can actually make needed change. Rather than trying to convince police and criminal justice officials, it made the target elected officials (mayors, city councils, school boards and governors) who have to respond to the public. This strategy also shifted the focus away from debating what often end up being ineffective reforms. The Minneapolis Police Department was a model with extensive training on implicit bias and de-escalation. The training is helpful but not effective alone.
With #DefundThePolice we are in a new conversation about reinvesting in communities themselves. This is a needed conversation that has been ignored far too long as education, housing, and economic development have all been reduced over decades, under both Democrat and Republican leaders.
One major challenge today is how to coalesce around needed changes. First and foremost, we must listen and support the leadership of Black organizations calling for change. On July 7, the Movement for Black Lives unveiled the Breathe Act, which demands:
- Divesting Federal Resources from Incarceration and Policing & Ending Criminal-Legal System Harms
- Investing in New Approaches to Community Safety Utilizing Funding Incentives
- Allocating New Money to Build Healthy, Sustainable & Equitable Communities for All People
- Holding Officials Accountable & Enhancing Self-Determination of Black Communities
The Breathe Act is an affirmative vision for Black Lives—essentially, a modern-day Civil Rights Act. Six years of policy work has led to a comprehensive and bold strategy that if enacted would go a long way to dismantle systemic racism and lead to the creation of just and equitable communities.
Everyone benefits from these changes. We know that systemic problems negatively affect all of us. MLK, “No one is free until we are all free.” White Americans are negatively affected by racism and its centrality to the founding of this country. Our identity is based on the exclusion and oppression of others. One is not truly free if their freedom rests on the backs of others.
We must come together and keep the pressure on and continue to advocate for systemic change. We must connect with and support BIPOC experts and the leadership of Black organizations.
Ultimately, we must build community. Our dis-ease is in part due to the fact that we are disconnected, we have othered each other. Coming together does not mean we minimize differences and the need for dialogue. In doing so, we can find common ground and build solidarity for action.
Safety is achieved by knowing your neighbors and being in networks of mutual support and accountability. Law enforcement cannot make that happen. Let’s invest in that. There are many best practices and knowledgeable professionals with proven alternatives to calling the police for non-safety issues. Building healthy, safe communities is more cost effective, creates producers in society rather than receivers of services and it creates communities where people choose to stay.
We must recognize that all of our liberation is connected together. No one is free until everyone is free.
作者：Mark Chupp 翻译：崔馨元
撤资警察，废除警察，废除监狱 —— 每一项都有不同的含义，但都表明已有的制度并不能满足所有美国人的需求。事实上，许多人会认为，从一开始，这些制度就打算用来对付某些人群，或至少控制他们。从这个意义上说，它们正在发挥其预期的作用，这就是为什么监狱和警务机构需要被取代的原因。
我们试图创造的替代方案是什么?如果我们撤资或废除警察会怎么样?新系统是什么？Rinku Sen很好地阐述了人们提出的各种形式的抵制，并把警察撤资作为一种策略。尽管遇到了阻力，她还是宣称这是一个明智的策略。作为一种组织策略，它将责任转移到能够真正做出必要改变的特定人员身上。它没有试图说服警察和刑事司法官员，而是将目标锁定在那些必须回应公众的民选官员(市长、市议会、学校董事会和州长)身上。这一策略也将人们的注意力从争论通常最终无效的改革上转移开来。明尼阿波利斯警察局(Minneapolis Police Department)是一个在隐性偏见和降级问题上接受过广泛培训的典范。培训本身是有帮助的，但不是有效的。