There is a movement going on now, believe it or not, to abolish the police. That phrase is ubiquitous in social media and is being taken seriously by many Democratic politicians. What would the world look like without law enforcement? I suppose the Wild West before sheriffs got hired, only way more crowded, with vastly more criminals and a more depraved culture. And of course the same people who want to abolish the local police department don’t want you to be able to defend yourself, either.
As an example of how far gone many Democratic politicians are, check out this screed by Aisha Gomez, a member–believe it or not–of the Minnesota legislature. It is titled “Police Abolition.”
This is why we talk about police abolition.
There is no reform that can fix this system. No training or body camera or coaching or diversification effort or outside investigation or toothless oversight body that can fix this.
The rot in police departments is the rot in our political and social systems, crystallized and heavily armed. It is a reflection of our country, built on the enslavement of African people and the genocide and dispossession of Native people, reliant on exploited immigrant labor to enforce the racialized social order and help the powerful accumulate wealth.
This insane version of American history is the orthodoxy of the Democratic Party.
The police exist to uphold this social order, with deadly force when necessary. Like they did on 38th and Chicago last week, with a knee on George Floyd’s neck as he said he couldn’t breathe and begged for his life.
How was George Floyd a threat to the social order? How did his tragic death “help the powerful accumulate wealth?” Who knows?
The origins of policing in the U.S. are in slave patrols that hunted liberated enslaved people and quelled uprisings.
Can anyone possibly take this nonsense seriously? Law enforcement has been universally regarded as essential by every society for hundreds of years. It has nothing to do with slavery. And as a member of Minnesota’s legislature, Gomez presumably understands that the need for law enforcement here did not arise out of “slave patrols that hunted liberated enslaved people.”
It is a dispassionate acknowledgement that our current policing system does what it was designed to do, to protect private property, uphold white supremacy, and terrorize Black and Brown people. It does not serve the interests of the people and it does not make our communities safe.
Why is it, then, that people in predominantly black areas are constantly asking for more police protection for their neighborhoods? I don’t think I have ever heard of a black neighborhood asking for less policing. That is because normal people see the police as protection from predatory criminals, not as instruments of racial oppression.
We can and must intentionally walk away from a system of state violence that murders and terrorizes Black and Brown men to uphold white supremacy and capitalism.
We can and must orient ourselves to a world beyond policing as it is currently designed, where we build real safety for all members of our community, or we will stay caught in the same cycle of state sanctioned murder of Black men in the streets, outrage, and failed reform, on and on, that we’ve been in for decades.
Beyond its sheer stupidity, what is most striking about Gomez’s screed is that it never mentions the actual realities of the Minneapolis police department, preferring to dwell in a weird fantasy world where Minnesota is a land of slave hunters. The fact is that every single person who has any ability to change Minneapolis’s police department is a member of the left wing of Gomez’s own DFL Party–Governor Tim Walz, Mayor Jacob Frey, and every member of the Minneapolis City Council (with the exception of one Green Party member). And the principal obstacle to reform, here as elsewhere in the world of government, is the police officers’ union. But the public sector unions are, far and away, the principal funders of Gomez’s DFL Party.
So we see no criticism of any of the public officials who are responsible for the Minneapolis Police Department, nor do we see any acknowledgement of the fact that changing the department’s culture would require taking on a public sector union, the sanctity of which is a pillar of left-wing ideology. Instead, Gomez tries to take DFL politicians off the hook by proclaiming that improvement is impossible due to Minnesota’s history as–I take it–a slave state.
Even in the corrupt world of politics, we don’t often see dishonesty of this breathtaking magnitude.