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GRIID Class – The Function of Policing in the US and how we can work towards a world Without Police: Part V

February 16, 2022

For week 5 of the class on Policing in the US, we read and discussed three more essays from the book, Abolition for the People. All three essays were focused on the importance of an abolitionist approach to policing, with a great deal of emphasis on radically re-imagining our world, our community without police and the carceral state.

The first essay was by Andrea Ritchie, and was entitled, Ending the War on Black Women: Building a World Where Breonna Taylor could live. In this essay, the author challenges us around the idea of accountability and punishment. Ritchie argues that if we demand the punishment and imprisonment of the cops who killed Breonna Taylor, we end up perpetuating the system that caused her death to begin with. It is understandable that people want to some form of justice when their family members are murdered by the police, but what this essay challenges us to think about is how do we dismantled there very system that produces cops who kill and punish Black people? We cannot simply mimic the very system we are hoping to abolish. 

The second essay we discussed was co-written by Dan Berger and David Stein, with the title, What Is & What Could Be: The Policies of Abolition. In this essay the authors write: 

While Republicans and Democrats may use different talking points, state spending demonstrates their shared commitment to preserving racist social control through police and prisons. Whether speaking the language of authoritarianism10 or professionalism,11 both Donald Trump and Joe Biden responded to the summer 2020 uprisings by pledging additional funding and support to police. That is why abolitionist campaigns to defund the police and decarcerate prisons are so transformative: they approach local and national budgets with necessary urgency as a venue in which the status quo can be either reinforced or remade. It is both a defensive posture and a visionary one. It’s a three-pronged strategy that the abolitionist organization Critical Resistance has summarized as Dismantle, Change, Build.

In addition, the essay looks at numerous previous movements that have practiced abolition, such as the Black Panther Party for Self-defense, SNCC, the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression and Critical Resistance, to name a few. The authors also ask the important question, which speaks to the need to radically imagine a different world: 

The upheaval and crackdown of the 2020 protests prompts the question of the last half-century and earlier: What type of protest movements could be built if communities were freed from the violence of policing and incarceration?

The 3rd and final essay we discussed was from Miriam Kaba, The Journey Continues: So You Are Thinking about Becoming an Abolitionist. Kaba provides 4 important steps for those wanting to become abolitionists: 

First, when we set about trying to transform society, we must remember that we ourselves will also need to transform. Our imagination of what a different world can be is limited. We are deeply entangled in the very systems we are organizing to change. Second, we must imagine and experiment with new collective structures that enable us to take more principled action, such as embracing collective responsibility to resolve conflicts. Third, we must simultaneously engage in strategies that reduce contact between people and the criminal legal system. Abolitionists regularly engage in organizing campaigns and mutual aid efforts that move us closer to our goals. Fourth, as scholar and activist Ruth Wilson Gilmore notes, building a different world requires that we not only change how we address harm, but that we change everything.

In addition to these essays, we read and discussed the Movement for Black Lives vision document that was developed in 2015. This document provides a robust set of demands, with powerful vision, as can be viewed in the graphic here on the right.

For week #6, we will be reading and discussion the Movement for Black Lives Defund the Police Toolkit.

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