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What Kind of Change Do We really want to see in Michigan: Part II

November 14, 2022

In Part I, we covered Immigration Justice, Health Care for All, Housing Justice and Education Justice. Today, we will explore demands centered around the Prison Industrial Complex/Policing, Racial Justice, Environmental Justice and LGBTQ Justice.

“Since 1984, Republicans have used their control of the Michigan Senate to block things Michigan families need. No more.”   Michigan Senate Democrats statement after the 2022 elections

The Democratic Party now has control of the State House, the State Senate and the Governor’s seat, which is the first time this has happened since the early 1980s.

With the Democrats now being in the driver’s seat through at least the end of 2024, this seems like a great time to make the kinds of demands we want, in terms of policy change. The Blue wave has come to Michigan, and since the Democratic Party is the “party of the people”, then this seems like a perfect opportunity to create a list of policy demands that the Dems can pass in Michigan. If we can take seriously the above comment from the Michigan Senate Democrats, then it is crucial to ask what it is that families living in Michigan really need? 

It has been my experience over the past 40 years of doing organizing work, along with my read of US history, is that federal, state and local governments don’t generally make the necessary changes that people need. Governments must be pushed and pressured by organized movements of resistance, which is the essential message of Howard Zinn’s monumental book, A People’s History of the United States.

The following list of demands is based on movement politics that I have been involved in or movement politics that I have been following closely for the past 40 years. If you have additional ideas, then by all means send them along or create your own on a different platform, but let’s think creatively, let’s practice radical imagination and lets demand collective liberation. We will cover some of these demands in several postings, plus most of these issues intersect, so we will regularly refer back to other demands.

Prison Industrial Complex/Policing

The US has the more people in prison than any other country on the planet and Michigan is part of that reality. The State of Michigan also spends a great deal of public funds on operating prisons, just like counties all across the state, which operate jails. We also know that the bulk of people who are in prison, jail, on parole or probation are people who are part of this system, even though their crimes are non-violent. Mass incarceration and the Prison Industrial Complex must be dismantled and we can begin this process by releasing people who are in for non-violent offenses.

Imagine if the prison/jail population were reduced by 75 or 80%. Then imagine of the taxpayer money used to run prisons and jails were all of a sudden put towards supporting families that have endured the harsh impact of the Prison Industrial Complex. We know that communities with the most resources are communities with the least crime. If there was a massive investment in the communities that are currently experiencing poverty, criminal activity would drastically be reduced.

Also, we demand an end to privately run prisons and detention facilities in the State of Michigan. Private prisons and detention facilities should be abolished in Michigan.

It is also no surprise that a disproportionate amount of BIPOC people are in the prisons and jails throughout Michigan. This reality is due to the fact that BIPOC communities have the least resources and because the way policing is currently done, BIPOC community members are more likely to end up being monitored, harassed and arrested by the police. 

Like the Prison Industrial Complex, police forces throughout Michigan are not needed, especially if the billions spent on prisons and policing in Michigan were re-directed to community needs. We know from the research done by groups like Interrupting Criminalization, that police do not prevent most crimes or reduce violence. If the billions that are currently being spent on prisons and cops were to be spent in communities, particularly BIPOC communities, then prisons and cops would not be necessary. This is not to say that violence will never occur, but there are lots of other models of violence prevention that do not rely on heavily armed state violence workers, aka, the police.

The State of Michigan should adopted a policy of defunding the prison industrial complex, which also includes defunding the police.

Racial Justice

Some aspects of racial justice can be achieved with the abolition of prisons and policing, mentioned above. For indigenous people, the State of Michigan could honor all previous treaties that were signed, give land back and pay reparations for the harm done to indigenous people and to indigenous children from the so-called boarding schools. 

More importantly, State lawmakers should convene listening sessions to ask directly indigenous communities what they want and how there can be racial justice moving forward.

This process of creating racial justice should also be done with the Black community, Latino/a community, the Arab community and the Asian community. Each of these communities should make their own specific demands for racial justice moving forward and that means that lawmakers must listen to their demands and then take appropriate action.

LGBTQ Justice

The State of Michigan must adopt policies that eliminate any forms of discriminations directed towards the LGBTQ community. This process could begin by including the LGBTQ community as part of the Elliot Larsen Act.

In addition, the State of Michigan should adopt policies to allow for same sex partner benefits, allow domestic partners to adopt and to remove any and homophobic and transphobic practices that take place in public and private institutions – legal institutions, educational institutions, civic institutions, etc. Again, the LGBTQ community should make their own demands, which means the State of Michigan should follow the same practice of holding listening sessions and then implement policies based on the demands from the LGBTQ community.

Environmental Justice

Environmental Justice includes Climate Justice, some of which we addressed in a previous post about the Enbridge Line 5. The same could be said about all fossil fuel extraction and consumption in Michigan. 

State policymakers should familiarize themselves with the principles of Environmental Justice and use these principles when making policy that make Environmental Justice a reality, especially since these principles are very intersectional. 

Mass Transit should be the norm moving forward, which would mean a drastic reduction in automobile use and production. Shifting to electric cars and trucks is not the answer.

Michigan agricultural policy should shift the use of land to food production that would be available for people living in the Great Lakes bio-region, not for export around the world. Shifting food production from mono-crops would also mean less production of food like corn, which is primarily for animal feed and not human consumption. There should be an end to industrial size agribusiness practices and smaller organic farming practices that are more bio-diverse, thus reducing the need for pesticides. Also, most of the people of Michigan are food insecure, so policies must be adopted to promote greater food security, food justice and food sovereignty. For a deeper exploration of the current food system, with is based on exploitation and driven by profits, go to this link

The current climate crisis is an urgent matter and time is of the essence. Climate Justice and the larger Environmental Justice policies addressed here need to be implemented in the very near future. 

In Part III of this series we will address Economic Justice, Foreign Policy & Michigan, along with Democracy demands, where we discuss the ways in which we need to change how we govern ourselves. 

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