Categories
Justice

Defund the Police and End Carceral System

I finished the book Biased by Dr. Jennifer L. Eberhardt on the same day that George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police.

The book contains page after page of research, over a period of decades, demonstrating how bias plays out in our lives. And more importantly, how it plays out in law enforcement. The book opens with a training for the Oakland police department. The department was trying to remedy extensive civil rights violations. The bias discussed in the book focused on how we view Black Americans. 

Bias exists in all our lives, regardless of where you sit on the political spectrum or where we sit in the justice movement. None of us are immune. Reading the dozens of research studies clearly solidifies how bias against Black Americans exists throughout American society.

And, as a member of that society, bias inside me. 

Bias, and more specifically white supremacy, permeates our laws, our law enforcement, and our so-called justice system. A first step toward making changes to these systems is seeing and understanding how white supremacy has played out over the centuries in American religion, American science, and American capitalism.

To be aware and to acknowledge these structural systems can help us move toward changing those systems. Writing this blog helps me to unearth some of my own bias and racism. I am honoring my quarantine and therefore am not able to join in the street protests. My vehicle will be my blogging and tweeting.

Yesterday, President Obama said at the end of his town hall that “this country was founded on protest.” He also talked about modifying policy and voting. Yes, these are both important, but I am firm believer in protest. Without the pressure of the masses, I don’t know how much will truly change. I’m reminded that the Minneapolis city council, mayor, and governor of Minnesota are all democrats. And Minneapolis police have killed over 30 people since 2000. And 1/3 of these were not armed. That’s just one city! 

I probably spend too much time on Twitter. I am watching the violence at the protests and countless example of police violence against peaceful protesters. The most egregious is probably the clearing of Lafayatte Square in Washington DC so President Trump could take a picture with a bible. But that’s just one example. There are dozens of short clips from Los Angeles to New York to Ashville to Minneapolis that show extreme violence against peaceful protesters. It is disgusting. And isn’t that what we’re protesting against?

The voice of many leaders has come forth to condemn the murder of George Floyd along with commitments to fight for change. But how far are they willing to go? We must take all necessary steps to combat racism and white supremacy. Even when it impacts the bottom line of capitalism. When I read that the LAPD was using Jackie Robinson Stadium at UCLA to process hundreds of arrests, I wondered how UCLA would respond. It took a day, but they issued a statement denying LAPD access to the property moving forward. That’s what we need to see. Likewise the Minneapolis School District ending their contract with the police department. What are you aware of in your community that upholds white supremacy? Are there changes that can be made like the two above? What organizations or entities are you part of that may be negatively impacting BIPOC communities? 

What systems do we need to change? Let’s begin with law enforcement and carceral system. I’m finding myself being an abolitionist. The entire police state is broken in this country. It is irreparable. We need to defund the police state and begin again.

Likewise, the carceral system is broken. The United States has the largest prison population in the world, and the highest per-capita incarceration rate. This is 698 people incarcerated per 100,000 people. Outrageous. Unacceptable. 

Look for organizations in your state that are doing the work. No doubt your local community has local police and a local jail or prison. These systems hurt Black Americans disproportionally. 

For example, here in California we have California Coalition for Women Prisoners who is running a #FreeOurElders for Mother’s Day campaign. Or check out The Marshall Project. Likewise, you could connect with your local SURJ chapter (or start one) who may already be doing this work to defund the police and end the carceral system. 

Categories
Reading

Sunday Reads

Long Reads

An Aesthetic of Blackness: Strange and Oppositional
by bell hooks

As artist and critic, I find compelling a radical aesthetic that seeks to uncover and restore links between art and revolutionary politics, particularly black liberation struggle, while offering an expansive critical foundation for aesthetic evaluation. Concern for the contemporary plight of black people necessitates that I interrogate my work to see if it functions as a force that promotes the development of critical consciousness and resistance movement.

Placial Justice: Restoring Rehabilitation and Correctional Legitimacy Through Architectural Design
By Victor J. St. John

If we must live with jails and prisons, which in my view is debatable, then the author suggests we use affective architecture to increase perceptions of justice, fairness, and positivity in criminal justice buildings.

Mass Incarceration Poses a Uniquely American Risk in the Coronavirus Pandemic
By Alice Speri

The fragmentation of the U.S. criminal justice system — a sprawling, decentralized bureaucracy with thousands of jurisdictions and powerholders — has long served to hide the full cost of mass incarceration. Comprehensive data on those the U.S. deprives of their freedom is virtually impossible to obtain in a timely fashion, if at all. The coronavirus crisis has laid bare this systemic failure more than ever. The country’s more than 3,000 jails, in particular, function like fiefdoms. While state corrections departments oversee prisons, and the Bureau of Prisons runs federal facilities, jails operate under the authority of thousands of local officials. Only a handful of states collect data from their jails.

Isaac Kasamani/AFP via Getty Images

Fighting the ghost
By Harriet Salem

This article was published in Delayed Gratification before the COVID crisis was a pandemic. The subject is Ebola and vaccination development. Reading this in light of COVID is very interesting and may point to some future directions. “In November 2019 a highly effective vaccine against Ebola was cleared for use by the European Commission. But as Harriet Salem found out on the border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda, huge obstacles remain on the path to beating this horrifying disease.”

‘You’re Fired!’ Retrotopian Desire and Right-Wing Class Politics
By Simon Schleusener

This essay will explore the way in which the populist right has utilized the realms of popular culture and the media in its struggle for hegemony.1 Along these lines, I will focus on Donald Trump’s former reality show, The Apprentice, drawing attention to the show’s prefiguration of precisely the right-wing class politics that was in many ways constitutive of Trump’s election as president – and which is still one of the key features of Trumpism today. In the course of the essay, I will also analyze certain facets of the online culture wars (cf. Nagle 2017), particularly examining right-wing efforts to pit feminists and working-class men against each other.

State Surveillance: Exploiting Fear during the Pandemic Crisis?
By Kirsten Hillebrand

During the pandemic crisis, state surveillance measures violated citizens’ privacy rights to track the virus spread. Little civic protest resulted—“safety first”? Indeed, many measures were implemented during the crisis without ever having been discussed in advance of the event of a crisis, which may raise ethical considerations, as individual consent to surveillance may change while experiencing fear.

Shorter Reads

Free Up the Prisoners
Anis Shivani

Why immigrant advocates should move from reform of prisons to abolition. And, In Migrating to Prison, Cesar Cuauhtémoc García Hernández puts both the financial and political motives for the explosive rise of immigration imprisonment into broader context. Migrating to Prison makes the persuasive case that the astronomical boom in imprisonment of immigrants stems from exactly the same root causes, both financial and political, as the dramatic escalation in mass incarceration. The case for abolition of prisons in general and immigrant prisons in particular rests on the same grounds.

For us to heal, we must be willing to not fear, fear.
By Irene Lyon

Fear is a biological and survival necessity. The cascade of neurochemical reactions lets us know, at lightning speed, that something is not right. Nature designed fear with speediness in mind. To understand how we embed the biological message that fear is to be feared and that fear is supposed to be scary, it’s important to understand how early life experiences, usually traumatic ones, trap fear.

Now Is the Time to Take Radical Steps Toward Housing Equity
By Chris Tittle

The current pandemic and economic crisis reveals in new ways just how cruel the private housing market can be. In April, one third of all renters could not pay rent—and 20 million more people have filed for unemployment since then. Research by the Eviction Lab shows how damaging eviction has always been to families and communities – evictions during COVID-19 might effectively amount to a death sentence for some people.

Bonus Material

If you just need something beautiful and kind, then enjoy this performance by Ryuichi Sakamoto. Be sure to turn on subtitles/captions so you get the translation from Japanese.

Ryuichi Sakamoto: Playing the Piano for the Isolated
Performed on April 2, 2020 in Tokyo
Published on YouTube on May 16, 2020