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Recommentunde: Defund The Police | 9 June 2020
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The Recommentunde Newsletter
Sent on 9 June 2020 Edition
Let’s defund the police. It’s the call that activists have pushed in the past week since American police decided to go ham on the public they are sworn to protect. Y’all saw it right? The riots? The police riots. Out of control. But then that word, control, is the very reason we have policing the way we do. In the United States, the police were established as a means of controlling populations, first slaves, then just black people, but also poor people, labor organizers, etc.
For over a century, we have loaded up law enforcement with all sorts of duties. Help with the homelessness. Resolve domestic disputes. Walk my kids cross the street. Perform a wellness check. Respond to noise complaints. Handle unruly kids in school. Intervene in this mental health crisis. Oh, look over there, a black person is walking/reading/shopping/birdwatching/breathing! Get em! For each of these problems, we have prescribed the intrinsically excessive force of (mostly) men with guns.
While we loaded up these officers with jobs they aren't qualified to perform, we also loaded them up with guns, lots of guns, and other military hardware. We equipped them with advanced level Call of Duty hardware and zero accountability. Have you ever watched someone play Call of Duty when they have infinite lives? It's a bloodbath. It's insane. It's what we've done across the entire country. And it’s dumb if what you want to encourage is public health and safety. It’s diabolically effective if what you want to encourage is control.
If you wanted to encourage public health and safety, you would stop shipping military hardware to cops and start shipping N95 masks to nurses.
In Los Angeles where I live, 54 percent of the city’s budget goes to the Los Angeles Police Department. In other cities, the numbers are large as well. If not a majority, policing represents the largest share of city budgets in scores of U.S. cities. When the biggest line item spending in your government’s budget goes toward policing, you live in a police state. That’s just how math works.
We’ve tried the body cams and the implicit bias training and the toothless citizen oversight boards and the reformist chiefs and the progressive mayors. It. Has. Not. Worked. American police still murder the people they are sworn to protect in grotesque fashion.
The system of policing is too corrupt to "reform." It must be reimagined. The problem is not a few bad apples. The problem is the entire bushel is rotten. Police in this country behave like a gang, and not just some street gang. They effectively engage in coordinated criminal enterprises every time they cover up their crimes. There is no accountability because of the extremist unions, because of weak prosecutors, because of purposeful design and history.
For the future to be different, our approach must be different. So I’m saying “defund the police” and move that money into solutions run by qualified people. It turns out we have teachers who can educate, social service workers who can help people on the streets, counselors to manage non-violent disputes, and a big can of STFU for the next white person who feels “threatened” by the mere existence of a black person in their vicinity.
Defund the police. This is some of what it means to me. Imagine what it would be like to not live in a police state. Let’s go build that place.
For more on this topic, check out the book "We Keep Us Safe" by Zach Norris.
And now for your regularly scheduled content in these revolutionary times.
Image by @coolbeenart on Instagram. Data by the world we live in but don't have to.
A moment from my show this past Sunday
Josina Reaves has been a regular member of the community around my live shows. She lives in Flatbush Brooklyn, and came on air Sunday to share a powerful statement about the NYPD, the nature of protest, and to push us to demand more. She’s angry and justifiably so. Let’s keep pushing.
Article by Justin Ellis in The Atlantic
“No group of protesters could devastate south Minneapolis more than years of disinvestment and abandonment already have. Lake Street was hollowed out long before the flames came.” This piece is hot fire. HOT FIRE!
Online event hosted by the Weeksville Heritage Center.
Weeksville is a cultural museum in central Brooklyn that preserves the memory of one of the oldest free black communities in the USA. This Saturday they have a joyful online event running 1-5pm ET. The link is to register to join via Zoom, but you can also observe on their YouTube or Instagram Live.
Podcast from NPR Throughline
This is the one thing to really absorb from this week’s newsletter. It’s an hour, and it’s all the history of policing you were never taught: the slave catching, the union busting, the organized crime facilitating, the poverty oppressing. This is why we say “defund the police” or “dismantle the police.”
Article in Forbes
I’m featured in an article in Forbes. Not the billionaire list sorry!
Video from BBC News on Instagram
It’s just so powerful to see the people of the world seeing us and finding the human connection to their own struggles in ours. We are one.
Article and Audio from NPR
Months before George Floyd, there was Breonna Taylor, a beautiful human being and most essential worker as an EMT in Louisville, Kentucky. She was slaughtered when police shot up her house as she slept. They did not identify themselves. Breonna’s boyfriend thought they were intruders. Also, it was the wrong house. This article highlights young people of Louisville demanding more from their mayor. They literally asked him not to respond, just listen. So listen to them now.
Video on Instagram
I promise you will feel better, maybe even amazing, after watching this.
Collection from the New York Times
This is a really good set and reminder that all issues of justice are interconnected.
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Peace and Love.