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Deconstructing the Anti-Defund the Police Meme that keeps popping up on social media

July 25, 2021

I’m sure we have all seen the Anti-Defund the Police meme. Hell, maybe some of you have even posted it. It’s the left side of the graphic here below.

This meme is so insidious and started appearing shortly after the Defund the Police Movement began, as a clear response to the police murder of George Floyd. It is critical to deconstruct any form of propaganda and this one is particularly important to deconstruct, especially since the Movement to Defund the Police is at a critical juncture.

There is a lot to unpack with this meme, but I want to point out three major aspects.

First, let’s look at the content of this meme. The whole “let’s transform, reform, rebuild, retrain the police” is simply a dead end. If you have read Alex Vitale’s book, The End of Policing, or any of Kristian Williams books on the history and function of policing in the US, you realize that trying to reform policing simply will not work, not if we are serious about ending state violence.

Moving beyond the slogans at the top of this meme, we then get to the narrative, which makes the case that if police numbers are reduced that criminal will run wild. There is little evidence to support such a claim, and the fact is that people who commit crimes already get away with whatever crime they commit, despite the fact that US police departments are massive, with tremendous weaponry. Moving on the narrative claims that this is damaging the Black Lives Matter cause. Ok, stop right there. The Defund the Police Movement actually comes out of the Movement for Black Lives, in part because of the lived experiences of Black people being brutalized by the cops and because of the decades long push to Abolish various forms of State violence, particularly the Prison Industrial Complex. The meme then continues to say that demanding to defund the police will hurt, “our chances of beating Trump in November.” Why is it that White Liberals always think that Social Movements are subservient to elections? 

Second, at the bottom of the meme, it says that the message came from the American Women’s Coalition. The American Women’s Coalition has no other online presence that a Facebook page, which was created by and run by Eve Sharon Hart, someone who is a “life coach” and lives in Laguna Beach, California. The Facebook page for the American Women’s Coalition states, “We are a new group for progressive, liberal and independent women of integrity, intelligence and heart, who are on a journey of both personal growth and political action!” However, no other people or organization are named as part of this coalition, which should raise lots of red flags. Coalitions have multiple groups, yet there is no evidence that the American Women’s Coalition is more than a one person gig.

Third, and most importantly, the Defund the Police Movement is a direct outgrowth of the Movement for Black Lives and other Black organizers that have been using an abolitionist framework to challenge numerous aspects of State violence over the past several decades. 

If people would actually read the Defund the Police Toolkit, we could easily dispose of these harmful memes created by White Liberals. Here are the opening words of the toolkit:

#DefundPolice is a demand that has gained popularity in response to recent police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade. It is rooted in the failure of decades of commissions, investigations, police reforms, and oversight to prevent their deaths. 

It is also a response to the fact that, in the face of a pandemic and the most devastating economic crisis of a generation, in which cities, counties, and states are experiencing drastic losses in revenues, many life-saving programs are on the chopping block while officials increase or maintain police budgets. 

It is a demand to #DefendBlackLives by shutting off resources to institutions that harm Black people and redirecting them to meeting Black communities’ needs and increasing our collective safety. 

#DefundPolice is a demand to cut funding and resources from police departments and other law enforcement and invest in things that actually make our communities safer: quality, affordable, and accessible housing, universal quality health care, including community based mental health services, income support to stay safe during the pandemic, safe living wage employment, education, and youth programming. It is rooted in a larger Invest/Divest framework articulated in the Movement for Black Lives’ Vision for Black Lives. 

It is high time that white people stop telling everyone else what they should do, particularly when it comes to how to deal with systems of oppression. White people need to shut up and listen to what Black people are telling them they want. White people also need to educate themselves on the history of the Black Freedom Struggle instead of just re-posting harmful memes that make them feel less threatened. 

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