Black Lives Matter: Understanding the call to Defund the Police and the Intersectionality of Ending the War on All Black People, Criminal Justice Reform, and Reparations.
Tuesday, August 11th, 2020
It is well past time for all Americans to call on all of our elected leaders to take seriously the national call to end police brutality and systemic racism targeted against the Black community and other communities of color.
After so many examples of wrongful deaths at the hands of the very public servants who should be protecting them, I call on every municipality, county and state official to create a multi-pronged process to address systemic racism within its jurisdictions. I agree with the Movement For Black Lives, and ask our elected leaders to hear them, fully (in their own words from https://m4bl.org/defund-the-police/).
“The time has come to defund the police, messaging to #defundpolice to redefine public safety and accountability for the 21st century and beyond. In response to a legacy of police and proxy violence that most recently took the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Tony McDade, people have taken to the streets in protest. This uprising against excessive, brutal, and militarized policing has called for decision makers in city, state, and federal government to defund the police after decades of inaction and failed reforms, consent decrees, investigations, and oversight.
“For much of U.S. history, law enforcement meant implementing laws that were explicitly designed to subjugate Black people and enforce white supremacy. That’s why Black people, along with hundreds of thousands of others, are calling for city, state, and federal governments to abolish policing as we currently understand it. We must divest from excessive, brutal, and discriminatory policing and invest in a vision of community safety that works for everyone, not just an elite few.
“We know the safest communities in America are places that don’t center the police. What we’re looking for already exists, and we already know it works. We need look no further than neighborhoods where the wealthy, well-connected, and well-off live, or anywhere there is easy access to living wages, healthcare, quality public education and freedom from police terror.
“We can’t stand by while our city, state, and federal governments continue to fund an excessive, brutal, and discriminatory system of policing. We will no longer be told that what we deserve is not politically viable or logistically possible. We will no longer be deprived of what others have long enjoyed in this country: basic rights, safety, and freedom.
“When we talk about defunding the police, we’re talking about making a major pivot in national priorities. We need to see a shift from massive spending on police that don’t keep us safe to a massive investment in a shared vision of community safety that actually works. We know this won’t happen overnight. We’re tired of quick fixes and piecemeal reforms. Ending police violence will require a thoughtful, deliberate, and participatory approach that has already begun.
“The exploding COVID-19 pandemic and disparate impacts on our Black community have shown us what happens when the government underfunds public health while overfunding police and military budgets. It’s clear that millions of people now know what Black communities have long understood: We must reverse centuries of disinvestment in Black communities to invest in a future where we can all be connected, represented, and free.” (https://m4bl.org/defund-the-police/)
I join others in centering the needs of the Black community, especially when it comes to the right to live in basic safety and without fear from police or others. This is not about us, but finally about encouraging our elected leaders to hear the very real cries of life and death from them. I also won’t attempt to rob Black people of their power by insisting they water down the term “defund,” which should not be understood as saying “unfund,” which is the way some people are reading the word. (In many ways, insisting that they change their terminology is a bit like demanding that “all lives matter.”) I realize that the term “defund the police” can be a non-starter for many, but I join those who ask you to listen to the calls by the Black community itself. Please read the quote above again.
The time has come for our elected leaders to address, irreversibly, the valid complaints of those who feel targeted because of the implicit bias and systemic racism that is endemic throughout our culture. Please study the history of policing, and its origins in America influenced so heavily by the history of militias to suppress slave rebellions, or private policing paid primarily to protect the property of the wealthy.
We need all of our elected leaders to make a difference this time around. The Black community has been suffering for over 400 years, and every round of “reconstruction” has failed to bring about true equality for them. We as a country must not fail this time. That means that policing as we know it must change. We must envision public safety in different ways. All people must be able to trust our public servants, and if that means a shifting of funding for those functions that can be accomplished by social workers or public servants without guns, then I encourage all municipalities to study best how to make such changes.
I also call your attention to the other areas of the Movement For Black Lives platform (available at https://m4bl.org/policy-platforms/), which calls for an end to the war on Black youth, Black communities, Black women, on Black Trans, gender nonconforming and Intersex people, on Black health and Black disabled people, on Black immigrants.
The institutionalized racism in our “criminal justice system” must also end. The M4BL also call for the end of all jails, prisons and immigration detention (https://m4bl.org/policy-platforms/end-jails-prisons-detention/), the death penalty, the war on drugs, the surveillance of Black communities and pretrial detention and money bail (https://m4bl.org/policy-platforms/end-pretrial-and-money-bail/). Also important is the call to end the militarization of law enforcement (https://m4bl.org/policy-platforms/the-demilitarization-of-law-enforcement/), especially with the history of Urban Shield here in the Bay Area. Ending of the use of past criminal history is also important, since this traps people in the system (https://m4bl.org/policy-platforms/end-use-of-criminal-history/). There is a level of specificity and details to the demands that includes which federal legislation is being discussed. Reparations for past and continuing harms by the state is also something our California Legislature is taking up (https://www.forbes.com/sites/rachelsandler/2020/06/13/california-assembly-passes-reparations-bill/ – 786ff0363aa6), and the Movement for Black Lives has a Reparations page and tool kit at https://m4bl.org/policy-platforms/reparations/.
If a community cannot guarantee that the full Bill of Rights of every citizen will be protected by all of its employees serving those citizens, it has a duty to make sure that the systems under its control are reformed or replaced with new structures that can guarantee every human the full ability to flourish in “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”