NO MORE HASHTAGS: THE CASE FOR DEFUNDING POLICE

It has been two weeks since the video of George Floyd being murdered by the police was released. The past two weeks have felt like an absolute nightmare. From seeing the video of another Black man’s life being taken at the hands of police, to the violent response of the government to protests, to the bogus autopsy report released by the Hennepin County medical examiner’s office, to having to plead and beg for the murderers to be locked up, quite frankly I am exhausted! Myself and other Black people in the United States live in a country where we constantly have to plead and beg for our right to be treated as a human. We have seen so many cases of Black people being gunned down by police and so many cases where the police officer was never convicted for the crime they committed.  We also see how Black Trans people get little to no attention when we discuss police brutality in the Black community, which is unacceptable. The constant repetition of the cycle of violence against Black people  is the reason people are outraged. The perpetuation of violence against Black people for over 400 years in the United States is the reason we are OUTRAGED! This is not just about George Floyd, this is about every Black person who has come before him and  did not receive justice.

Many white people and non Black minorities, until the George Floyd case, never saw the reason for the Black Lives Matter movement. They would often respond to someone saying #BlackLivesMatter with saying #AllLivesMatter. For them it had to take such a heinous crime like a police officer purposefully suffocating George Floyd for over 8 mins to see that in fact BLACK LIVES DO MATTER. If it takes a gruesome crime like this for you to realize this, then you need to reflect on why that is and unlearn the racist ideals that made you respond to the murders of innocent Black people with the phrase #AllLivesMatter. That is simply not ok!  You need to educate yourself and do research on how you can go about being part of the solution and not the problem. Also, if you are NOT outraged by the constant murder of Black people at the hands of Police, then you need to do some serious digging as to why that is, because you are also part of the problem. While you are educating yourself, please make sure you are also putting your money where your mouth is, and not just posting black squares on Instagram, this goes for both brands and individuals. A post on Instagram with a black square is not going to stop the police from killing me or any other Black person for that matter. So take a stand, educate yourself, sign petitions, donate money, hold your friends and family accountable and stay informed on what is happening locally in your community and nationally. Brands also need to do better and do more because their lackluster statements are not enough for me.

For Black People, we live in a world where we CANNOT simply respond with #AllLivesMatter, we cannot simply turn away from a video of a Black person being murdered and say THIS IS NOT MY PROBLEM. Our daily reality is one where we are constantly bombarded with videos of Black people being murdered at the hands of police, it is almost like a weekly occurrence now. Those videos, although they can be used as evidence in court, are TRIGGERING. When one of those videos comes across my timeline I either have to watch it and be traumatized all over again or numb myself so I do not have to feel the pain of watching another Black person’s life being taken by the same people who are tasked to protect us. We constantly have to worry about our safety when driving, shopping, eating skittles while walking home, going for a jog, eating ice cream in our homes, etc. Literally you can insert any activity to that list and it has probably been the reason a Black person has lost their lives at the hands of police. Imagine having to worry if either you, your family members or friends will be killed because of the color of your skin but also worrying about other issues like being disproportionately affected by Coronavirus because of this country’s deeply rooted institutionalized racism. While grappling with all of this institutional violence, you still also have to worry about other day to day things like working and maintaining professionalism at work when all you really want to do is break down and cry. It is exhausting! Not only is it mentally exhausting but it is also physically exhausting and also takes a toll on your overall health. 

This is why when people say we just need to vote to solve this issue, I disagree. There is so much more that needs to happen than just voting.  Voting for the right elected officials in local elections might lead to more of these cases being tried and convicted, however I do not even want us to get to a point where we need a case because that would mean that another Black person has lost their life unjustly, which is unacceptable. Voting is still not going to change the fact that there are racist police officers who are looking to kill Black people. I cannot vote a cop in or out. Of course I understand that getting more people convicted for these crimes might make police officers think twice before murdering another Black person, however civilians get convicted for murder all the time yet people still murder other people everyday. So honestly just voting is not enough for me. I always talk about the importance of voting especially in the local elections and I always reiterate this point to my friends and family whenever it is time to vote locally or federally, however voting is not the end all be all answer in this situation. Using voting as the ultimate solution once again alleviates responsibility from the oppressors and leaves it in the hands of those being oppressed and that is not how we move forward.  We need a system put in place that regardless of who is in power, they must charge and convict any police officer who uses excessive force to harm or kill any civilian, especially Black civilians. Saying VOTE only holds some people accountable to do the right thing. Every single elected official should be held accountable to charge and convict police officers regardless of their political affiliation, elected officials should be working for all people, not just a select few who keep money in their pockets. Focusing solely on voting also means that I have to accept that the senseless killing of Black people at the hands of police will never stop and that I should just be happy to have good enough elected officials who will convict and charge the police.

Quite frankly, that is not enough for me! We need to do way more than just accept that this will continue to be our reality.  We need to ensure we have a system where Black people are not senselessly murdered on a daily basis by those tasked to protect them. Long ago I was a huge proponent of giving implicit bias training to police officers and having police reform as the answer for police violence. The Minneapolis police department (MPD)  has a long standing history of using violence. Five years ago MPD decided to use some of the Obama administration’s list of proposed police reforms to improve their department. According to The Guardian, the Minneapolis police department “implemented trainings on implicit bias, mindfulness, de-escalation, and crisis intervention”, 1 they even increased the level of diversity in the leadership of the department and they started using body cameras, and “created tighter use-of-force standards”. Even though the department spent over $4.75 million on trying to fix the relationship between the community and police, none of the initiatives worked. 1  In fact, it has been revealed that officer behavior actually gets worse after bias training. 

Currently, the police are tasked to handle a range of social problems they honestly do not have the training for. A police officer with a gun and 3-6 months of training should not be called to de-escalate a mental health crisis or a domestic violence incident. Shouldn’t a well-trained and specialized social worker be called in these situations? There are a few activist organizations around the country calling for the defunding of police. Many organizations are currently fighting for defunding in Minneapolis, some of these organizations  include, Reclaim the Block, Black Visions Collective and MPD 150. As it stands, the Minneapolis police department is allocated 30% of the city’s general fund, 11% of its budget, whereas only 1.5% goes towards health.3 This is not unique to just Minneapolis, the NYPD is allocated $6,000,000,000 every year, which is greater than the combined total that New York City spends on health, affordable housing, “youth development and workforce development.”8 That is money from hard earned work of Americans that is being used to brutalize and dehumanize Black people on a daily basis. Organizations like MPD 150 are asking for the Mayor of Minneapolis to defund police and take some of the funds meant for police and direct them towards “community-led health and safety strategies.” 1  This re-directed money could be utilized to develop a violence prevention program not led by police, focus on combating homelessness, and develop a mental health response group. For many situations, there are a list of local services and hotlines that can be called upon instead of using the police, we need to increase funding for these resources and educate everyone on how to and when to use each of these resources. 1  

Besides defunding police, we also need to drastically reduce the scope of a police officer’s work and eventually abolish police. Of course this will be done gradually and we won’t just wake up one day and not have police. Many people are against defunding and abolishing police because they are concerned about crime. Having such a huge amount of the city’s budget go towards police shows citizens that the city only cares about the militarization, punishment and surveillance instead of working on preventative measures that would create and foster healthy and safe communities. Many wonder how we would be able to fight crime without the police. Crime is not a random occurrence, and most times it happens when people are unable to meet their basic necessities. If we are able to take the huge sum of money allocated to the police department and allocate it to services that will help people meet their basic necessities, like affordable housing, quality education, healthy food, then we can reduce crime. We need a more just education system for all communities, not just the wealthy ones. We also need more mental health resources and more affordable housing programs. In addition we need to give citizens  the chance to determine how their community will be run. The United States, as it stands, directs a majority of city money to police, prisons and military instead of focusing more on social programs that will help citizens lead a safe and healthy life. For me it is simple, if the polices’ role is to protect all citizens, but they continue to harm those that they are tasked to protect and never face any consequences for their actions, then it seems to me that they are not doing their job. Even after reform has been made, police still insist on murdering innocent Black people. Since the police have failed the people they are meant to protect, we have no choice but to try other alternatives like defunding and abolishing police and utilizing other more highly trained professionals without guns to deal with different social issues. Camden, NJ disbanded its police department in 2013 and has seen a drastic drop in violent crimes since then.9

While police are being defunded, we also need to address the ENTIRE SYSTEM of OPPRESSION that is set up to kill and attack Black people from every angle. This includes the following but it is not an exhaustive list: the medical field, the unjust justice system, the education system and more. For example, 1 in 3 Black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime whereas only 1 in 17 white men will go to prison in their lifetime. 5  Black students are more likely to be suspended than white students, however when black students are matched with Black teachers, Black students are less likely to be suspended than when they have a white teacher.6“Black women are 3 to 4 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women.” These are just a few of the racial disparities that exist in the United States. Everyone needs to be re-educated, and be held accountable to do their jobs, from the doctors, to the educators, to the lawyers and judges. There need to be serious consequences for those in our society who continue to perpetuate racist ideals, NO EXCEPTIONS.

We can only move forward if everyone in this country acknowledges that racism, specifically racism towards Black people is in fact a problem and has been for hundreds of years. We must then make sure that everyone unlearns their racist ideals and is taught the real history of this country and not the lies they teach kids in school. The real history about the multiple war crimes committed by white people against Black people and other people of color in this country. Until everyone admits that slavery, segregation, and racism as a whole was wrong and acknowledges it, we will never move forward as a society. 

Sources 

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/may/31/the-answer-to-police-violence-is-not-reform-its-defunding-heres-why
  2. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/15/nyregion/bias-training-police.html
  3. https://populardemocracy.org/news/publications/freedom-thrive-reimagining-safety-security-our-communities?org=1312&lvl=100&ite=122&lea=23632&ctr=0&par=1&trk=
  4. https://www.mpd150.com/10-action-ideas-for-building-a-police-free-future/
  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krfcq5pF8u8
  6. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2016/02/22/teacher-perceptions-and-race/
  7. https://www.heart.org/en/news/2019/02/20/why-are-black-women-at-such-high-risk-of-dying-from-pregnancy-complications
  8. https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2020/06/heres-where-the-movement-to-defund-police-is-gaining-momentum/
  9. https://www.newsweek.com/minneapolis-not-first-disband-police-department-1509327

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Bisi is a data engineer by day and freelance writer and travel blogger by night. She enjoys exploring the world on a budget. She hopes to visit every country in the world especially all 54 African countries. She is happiest when she is eating well-seasoned food.

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