When will Houston outperform Chicago?
Cutting police budgets is the first step in a long way. In the end, it is a matter of ending the police processing of social problems. As serious police reforms fail time and again, substantial cuts in funding or even the complete abolition of the police are now part of mainstream debates.
This summer's riots forced the United States to grapple with the racism that is deeply rooted in society. The lynching of George Floyd tore the veil of segregation and revealed the reality of life for millions of African Americans - and the never-ending loss of more and more black lives. The deaths of tens of thousands of African Americans from the rapidly spreading corona virus, the footage of the execution of Ahmaud Arbery by two white men in Georgia, the reports of the brutal murder of Breonna Taylor by the police in Louisville, and then the horrific murder of Floyd in Minneapolis have made a wider public aware that there is a police state in Black America.
In June it became clear that the persistence and duration of the protests had triggered a historic shift in the perception of white people. A nationwide poll showed an unprecedented shift in public opinion. According to this, 71 percent of the white population believed that racism and discrimination were a "big problem" in the USA, and 55 percent saw the anger of the protesters as justified. In another poll, 55 percent expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement. This turning point was reflected in a wave of public gestures of reconciliation. Executives everywhere acknowledged their company's role in perpetuating racial inequality - even if they did not want to take full responsibility for it.
Nascar banned the display of the Confederate flag at its events. Long an unofficial holiday among African Americans, Juneteenth suddenly became an official, paid holiday. Former President George W. Bush condemned "systemic racism". In a sense, the quick, knee-jerk resort to symbolic recognition of racism is nothing new: no other country indulges in empty excuses as often in the hollowed out void as the United States. When it comes to Black Americans, this can best be seen in the announcement of supposedly large civil rights laws that will end up being “compromised, postponed, or reversed,” as historian Leon Litwack wrote.
It is clearly a cowardly gesture for multi-billion dollar companies to adopt the Black Lives Matter slogan and use it to declare that one has to value the lives of black people, but at the same time refuse to pay their workers dangerous bonuses Granting breaks or living wages. Nonetheless, the efforts of the elite to cleanse themselves of "systemic racism" clearly show once again that racism is not only expressed in burning crosses and the N-word: Racism can be found in the real estate market, in higher education, in the labor market and most certainly in the police system as in the criminal justice system. Now that the coronavirus pandemic and the uprisings have exposed the structural problems of American society, structural solutions are being discussed again. A few months ago, the demand to cut police budgets (“defund the police”), which was only made from marginalized corners, has become the central keyword of the Black Lives Matter movement, which is once again on the rise.
The parallels to the freedom struggles of the 1960s are obvious. Just as now, Black revolutionaries like Martin Luther King Jr. argued against the racist claim that poverty and social marginalization were caused by dysfunctional family structures that are typical of black families. In doing so, they created space for a deeper examination of the life of black people in the USA. Then as now, militant activists showed the connection between black poverty and ubiquitous racial discrimination - as it shows in public schools, in professional life or in access to good housing. They also pointed to the financial interests behind maintaining this inequality. Black militant activists saw the financial plight of many black people as proof that their marginalized communities represented a kind of “colonies” within the United States. Some referred to the oppressive living conditions in black neighborhoods as "internal colonialism", which was expressed, for example, in the practice of white landlords charging astronomical sums for rat-infested apartments or in the fact that shops were offering installment payments with irresponsible interest rates - that was all possible because African Americans represent a de facto segregated and monopoly market.
In response to this organized theft, the black militants Stokely Carmichael and Charles V. Hamilton coined the term “institutional racism” in their groundbreaking book “Black Power” in 1967. Carmichael and Hamilton differentiated between “individual” racist acts and emotionless “institutional” processes in which the intentions of the perpetrators were less relevant than the effects on the lives of black people. Institutional racism, they wrote, was “less obvious, far more subtle, and harder to spot. The effects on human life, however, are no less devastating. " Carmichael and Hamilton went on to describe how institutional racism “holds black people in shabby slums, where they are exposed to the greed of exploitative landlords, traders, loan sharks and discriminatory real estate agents on a daily basis. Society either pretends not to be aware of this situation or is unable to do anything about it. "
From the fight against poverty to the expansion of the police force
Recognizing that black inequality is fueled primarily by institutional racism and not by some pernicious “culture of poverty”, the need for institutional solutions arose. With this in mind, there was a massive expansion of the welfare state during Lyndon B. Johnson's tenure. At the urging of the President, the US Congress passed almost two hundred laws between 1963 and 1968 as part of the “War on Poverty” and the “Great Society” social programs. From the founding of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development to the compensatory education program “Head Start” to food stamps and health care through Medicare, these measures should form a security network. In the 1960s, spending on poverty reduction programs grew tens of billions of dollars, resulting in a dramatic decline in the number of people living in poverty across the country. At the beginning of national official measurements in 1959, the poverty rate was a high 22 percent, in the early 1970s it had fallen to 11 percent.
However, the high level of government spending was not limited to the fight against poverty. For various reasons, crime rates rose in the mid-1960s. For one thing, it had to do with the way crimes were counted and reported. On the other hand, black uprisings against racism and police violence also contributed to this increase, as did the migration of the black population to the cities, where they did not find any real job prospects. The rise in crime increased the police presence, which in turn increased the likelihood of police abuse and violence.
Even when the Democrats celebrated the passing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the end of discriminatory Jim Crow laws in the southern states, frustrations boiled over in the black epicentres in the north. There were riots in Harlem and Philadelphia that summer against unemployment, underpaid, poor housing, and ubiquitous police violence. Hundreds were arrested and property damage ran into millions of dollars; all of this heralded a new phase in the movement for black rights across the country. In view of the increasing revolts against the living conditions in urban areas, the president turned to the police authorities. You should bring the imploding cities back under control. The solution - Democrats and Republicans agreed on this - is to expand and improve police training.
On March 8, 1965, the day after the historic "Bloody Sunday" march on Selma, Alabama, led by the late John Lewis, President Johnson announced new legislation to arm American police forces with state money. Regardless of the nationally broadcast images of the brutal crackdown by the Alabama police against civil rights activists on Edmund Pettus Bridge the previous day, Johnson only referred to urban crime in his comments: «No law is more essential to our society than the law to personal security, and no other right needs to be defended with greater urgency today, ”he said.
By the late 1960s, the Johnson administration and the successor Nixon administration had agreed to portray the urban black rebellions as black lawlessness, to which a better trained police force and more intense law enforcement would have to respond. In her book “From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime” (2016), historian Elizabeth Hinton has shown how liberal decision-makers at the local and national level denounced the causes of crime, but their policies an extension of executive violence against them Followed protests that broke out due to the hopeless situation in the cities. In its report on the unrest of 1967, the Kerner Commission advocated, on the one hand, an expansion of government programs to counter the racialized injustice that fueled the uprisings; In this respect it represented the epitome of an interventionist, liberal government policy. At the same time, however, it recommended an exponential increase in the police presence in urban areas, warned of an impending crime wave that would emanate from black youth, and advised various methods of containing unrest . The proclamation of “Law and Order”, with which the southern states had aggressively opposed the demand for “Freedom Now”, now developed into the establishment's answer to “Black Power”. It is relevant in this context that Nixon deplored the uprisings as excesses of the "Great Society" social reforms and saw in them the cause of the disintegration of the social order. In 1968 he combined these different strands in his speech for the Republican presidential nomination: "We must speak honestly about law and order in the United States tonight," said Nixon. «The police, who are responsible for enforcing our law, and our courts, which are responsible for interpreting them, may be committed to civil rights. But they should also be aware that living free from violence at home is the foremost right of every American, and that right must be protected in this country. " Finally he stated: “We have been overwhelmed by a deluge of social programs; Programs for the unemployed, programs for cities, programs for the poor. Our output from these programs is dire frustration, violence and failure in the country. "
The turn to a law enforcement policy
By portraying black rebellion as lawless chaos, Johnson first and then Nixon shifted the focus from systemic racism to crime. Political scientist Naomi Murakawa described this situation as follows: “The US did not have a racial crime problem; they had a racism problem that led to criminalization. "
Politicians instrumentalized the crime issue to distract attention from the causes of the unrest, but at the same time crime was also a reality in the life of the black working class. The long-lasting economic boom of the post-war period gave way in the early 1970s to a recession that brought even more suffering and despair brought himself. Between 1972 and 1975 the unemployment rate among the black population rose from 10 to 15 percent. In the same, short period of time, nationwide statistics recorded a four million increase in violent crimes, which in turn led to a noticeable demand in black communities that more should be done about it - also at the police level, as legal scholar James Forman Jr. has established. The funds withdrawn from the Great Society programs could have alleviated the worst of the 1973-1975 recession, and with it rising crime rates. Numerous surveys carried out after various riots showed that a majority believed that better jobs, housing and prospects could counteract inequality. And they also agreed that crime is a consequence of inequality. When the prosperity of the 1960s gave way to recession and stagnation in the 1970s, however, racial resentment gained traction and determined the response to the social crisis at the time.
The move to a law enforcement policy was not just a political idea that would change from one government to another. It represented a fundamental change in American politics. This became clear, among other things, in the increasing reluctance that the Democrats now showed towards social assistance and the root cause analysis for crime. The development can also be seen in the changed spending patterns across the criminal justice system.
From 1977 to 2017, national and local police spending, adjusted for inflation, rose from $ 42 billion to $ 115 billion. The falling crime rates in the early 1990s did nothing to change this extreme increase. The Center for Popular Democracy found that today Chicago, Oakland, Houston, Minneapolis, Orlando, and Detroit each spend at least thirty percent of their total unrestricted budget on their law enforcement agencies. The hundreds of millions of dollars paid by municipalities across the country to resolve lawsuits related to police violence are not included in these expenses. Lawsuits against police officers have cost American taxpayers more than $ 300 million in the last year alone, ABC News reports. Many city administrations see this as a necessary evil.
For forty years, the Democratic Party ruled fearful that it could be accused of not cracking down on crime. At the national and regional level, the party has therefore pursued a hard-hand policy, for example giving priority to increasing police resources over other programs that would be necessary to remedy injustices caused by racism. It is significant that Philadelphia, the city with the highest poverty rate of any major US city, has not had a public hospital since 1977. At the same time, despite falling crime rates, Philadelphia is funding its police with several hundred million dollars a year.
The »Defund« campaign is bringing initial success
In the days after the protests hit the streets of Philadelphia, Mayor Jim Kenney wanted to approve a planned $ 19 million increase in police funding. At the same time, city budget cuts worth $ 370 million were planned. Among other things, 21 percent of the funds for initiatives against violence and 18 percent for a police complaints office (Police Advisory Committee) should be cut. Kenney also wanted to cut millions on social housing programs despite the tremendous housing shortage facing poor and working class Black renters and owners.
The Philadelphia protesters have put an end to this policy of the Kenney administration. On June 6, tens of thousands of people crowded Benjamin Franklin Parkway downtown to protest the budget in a spontaneously organized demonstration under the Black Lives Matter banner.The protest was the largest Philadelphia had seen in years and forced the mayor to refrain from increasing police funds and reverse some of the cuts to youth programs. Despite these changes, the Philadelphia Police Department can still count on $ 727 million, the largest item in the municipal budget. No police officers have been fired, while hundreds of city employees have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. Kenney claimed solidarity and sympathy with the protesters, but it is only when you look at a city's budget that you can see how important black people actually are to their politicians.
Violence instead of security
The Floyd uprisings have brought new impetus to the struggle for real security in the black working class communities: They underscored the need for securely financed public services, good jobs and safe and beautiful living conditions away from the threatening police presence. However, it is difficult to create this new world out of the reality of existing violence and crime. With the outbreak of unrest, there was also a dramatic increase in armed violence in black communities across the country. There were 30 percent more shootings in Philadelphia than the previous year; On the weekend of July 4th, 23 people were shot or shot within 24 hours. In Atlanta, 31 people were shot in 11 different incidents over the same weekend, five of whom were killed in the process. New York City recorded 64 shootings and 10 deaths over the Independence Day celebrations. In Chicago, the shootings began almost at the same time as the street protests against police brutality. Six days after George Floyd's murder on May 31, 18 people were murdered in Chicago, most of them black. Never before in the 60 years since records began has there been such a high number of gun violence deaths within 24 hours.
In Chicago and elsewhere, Afro-Americans are not only the ones most afflicted by gun violence, but also the ones who organize against crime in their neighborhood. Their efforts are usually not noticed because they do not fit into the current “law and order” worldview. Instead, Donald Trump and a myriad of right wing fanatics have twisted the extent of black deaths in Chicago into a racist image. The pain that black communities experience from ruthless gun violence is secondary to them - if they even notice it. Trump and his Republican Party entourage do not care about the life and death of Black people in the United States. Trump once described Baltimore as "disgusting, rat and rodent-infested chaos" in which "no one would want to live." The basic tenor of the statement made it clear that any city with a large proportion of black population could be meant. For over 50 years, Republicans on the front lines have been pushing measures that add to the hardship that has become the epitome of black life. Most African Americans are well aware of this - which is why the Republican Party falls on deaf ears when it addresses Black America with its speeches contaminated with the ideology of white supremacy.
With their rhetoric about crime between Black people (Black-on-Black crime) not only instrumentalize the rights of black dying to their political advantage, it also makes the important distinction between horizontal violence on the one hand and state violence on the other more difficult. Making this distinction does not mean belittling the deep despair and grief over senseless murders that terrify black neighborhoods in Chicago and other cities. Rather, a look at the police presence in these communities shows how deeply they are permeated by police violence and their methods of intimidation.
Police brutality has been the central political catchphrase behind which black communities have rallied for decades. It is clear evidence that poor and working class African-Americans are being treated as second-class citizens. If the police can stop you on the street to question you, search you, beat you, arrest you and occasionally kill you, then you are not an equal citizen. The encounter of black people with the police and the criminal justice system often represents deep and shocking cuts in the lives of those affected. The loss of a loved one through local armed violence is of course also a terrible event, but one element is missing that is central to encounters with state power is: the abolition of basic social and human rights.
This is not an exaggeration, but the lived experience that not only the average black Chicagoer must have. Chicago's police forces are notorious among African Americans in the city: from their role in the 1969 murder of Black Panther activist Fred Hampton to the torture scandal that lasted from the 1970s to the 1990s and for which the city administration finally declared itself responsible in 2016 when compensation was paid to the surviving victims. The legacy of racism and brutality continues. For example, take a look at the 2016 Chicago Police Accountability Task Force report, installed by then Mayor Rahm Emanuel after the murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. According to the commission, McDonald's death “demonstrates the deep and long-running conflict between black and Latino communities on the one hand and the police on the other. This is clearly a consequence of the police's firearms use, but also of the daily and pervasive police assaults that prevent people of all ages, races, and genders across Chicago from moving freely in their own neighborhood. To be stopped without pretense, verbally and physically abused, in some cases arrested and then imprisoned without legal advice - this is the experience one hears about again and again. "
In fact, the investigation concluded: "The Chicago Police Department records support the widespread belief that the police have no appreciation for the lives of People of Color."
For the political right and also for many decision-makers in the Democratic Party in Chicago, it has become very easy to reduce questions of crime and violence to evil lone perpetrators, among whom a police officer can sometimes be found. It is much more difficult to deal with the fact that racist segregation, discrimination in the housing market and other exploitative real estate practices have been stolen from black communities for centuries. Chicago's city council has only made things worse from one government to the next. Public schools were closed, social housing demolished, psychotherapy facilities abandoned - leaving poor and working-class black people in the lurch. Around 32 percent of black Chicagoans live below the official poverty line - a figure that has barely changed in the last fifty years and is six percentage points above the national poverty rate for black people. Chicago is a wealthy city, but those who need it most don't benefit from that wealth.
And while the city spends more per capita on its law enforcement agencies now than it did fifty years ago, Black Chicago hasn't gotten any safer - both resident and state violence are also damaging the mental health of the population. A small study from 2017 shows that 29 percent of black women in a neighborhood in the south of the city suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, and a further seven percent have a number of typical symptoms. A recent study on Chicago shows that the combination of police violence and violence among residents leads to more social isolation, loneliness and hypervigilance. All of these factors increase stress and exacerbate unhealthy living conditions, which in turn contributes to the fact that serious COVID infections are particularly common among African Americans. The suicide rate among black people in Chicago in 2020 has already exceeded that of the entire previous year. These communities do not need a police presence, but medical care and nursing and the resources to recover from decades of racism and institutional neglect.
One government after another, Chicago has failed to make the city livable for ordinary black citizens. Instead, the old recipe of investing more in the police and less in the neighborhoods is only being re-issued by each new administration. The lack of answers to the urgent need in Chicago's black working-class neighborhoods has forced many to leave the city. Between 2000 and 2016 - including new arrivals - more than 200,000 black Chicagoans fled the city. The usual statement that they wanted to escape the violence between residents in Black Quarter was countered by the fact that 60 percent of them were unemployed.
Poverty is a central factor in escalating violence
The coronavirus pandemic has shown - and the Floyd uprising has confirmed it - that large, structural measures would be the bare minimum for black life to be truly valued in the United States. The call to cut police budgets addresses both the scale of the crisis and the need for an equally comprehensive response. The demand draws attention to the contradiction that the police are recording steadily increasing spending while large parts of the public sector have been dried up. Cities across the country are living proof of this. In order to fill the gaps in the budget, privatizations were pushed ahead and other market-oriented solutions were chosen. Social housing has been replaced by for-profit housing associations; public schools and hospitals closed and converted into condominiums; Opening times in libraries reduced to the absolute minimum. Youth and job creation programs are a thing of the past. At the same time, police agencies have proven almost immune to the layoffs and austerity measures to which all other public agencies are exposed. Indeed, the cuts in public funds that could fight poverty and increase social mobility are becoming the eternal excuse for more police force.
When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently suggested that rising crime in New York might have to do with the financial pressures on citizens in the face of the pandemic, she was shocked. Ocasio-Cortez explained, “Maybe it has something to do with the fact that people can't pay their rent and that it scares them. Then go out to get food for their children and have no money. So you get into a situation in which you think either you are stealing some bread now or you have to go to bed hungry in the evening. " He continued: "The idea that violent crimes are in any way immune to or independent of the economic situation people are in is, in my opinion, a mistake." Finally: "This is real desperation, even if it is not just about shoplifting - there is a scale that escalates to violent crime and that has to do with the economic situation in which a community is currently."
The statements of Ocasio-Cortez logically caused great excitement for the right. The White House took the opportunity to reject calls for police budget cuts and called Ocasio-Cortez's statement "absurd". Florida Rep. Ted Yoho confronted her on the steps of the Capitol, accusing her of "losing her mind" about associating poverty with crime in this way. When he turned away from her, he called her a "fucking whore". Such misogyny often goes hand in hand with the contempt for poverty. There were similar reactions, however, not only in the right. Andrew Cuomo, Democratic Governor of New York, also joined the debate, claiming that it was "virtually impossible" to blame the fear of housing loss for the rise in crime in the city. Cuomo seems to think that the current moratorium on evictions in New York means that poor people will no longer worry about how they will pay their rent.
The problem is compounded by the fact that many acts of poverty are made criminal, such as sleeping in cars or in public spaces, begging for money or food, urinating in public, including shoplifting - all the things that go with them poor people take action when they don't have the privacy and discretion that come with having their own apartment. Such acts bring poor people directly into confrontation with the police, and the criminalization of poverty makes it virtually impossible to find a way out.
These developments affect African Americans much more in that they are more often affected by poverty than white people. Arrests and criminal convictions, in particular, keep African Americans trapped in oppressive low-wage or illegal work that intensifies the sense of hopelessness so prevalent among the Black Lives Matter generation. In her autobiography "Men We Reaped", Jesmyn Ward describes the unsuccessful efforts of her younger brother to build a life on the Mississippi Gulf coast as a "cycle of futility". Ward writes: “He never found a proper job. Perhaps he was deterred by the experiences of the young men from the neighborhood. Most of them worked until they were fired or resigned because the minimum wage was too long and then fizzled out too quickly. In between they sold dope until they found work again as a salesman in a corner shop, as a janitor or gardener. "
Her brother was killed by an intoxicated driver when he was 19. Ward concludes: "The American Dream did not exist for him, no happy ending, no hope."
Surveillance and punishment
Ward's book accompanies the life and death of her brother and four other young black men who are all stuck in similar mills of futility and ultimately mean a premature death. When such hopelessness leads to the premature death of white people, it is viewed with more empathy. In search of an explanation for the phenomena that could be behind the falling life expectancy among average white men and women, social scientists * coined the term "deaths of despair". These deaths, the direct causes of which are opioid addiction, alcoholism and suicide, are now understood against the background of heightened personal precariousness and insecurity in the context of a social crisis. Compared to the previous era of cocaine addiction, opioid abuse is viewed more as a public health problem. In the social discourse, medical treatment is preferred to imprisonment.
Some officials wrongly justify the need to cut funds in the police force by arguing that resources should be diverted to social benefits because the police are faced with increasing crime caused by drug abuse, homelessness or mental illness. MEP Karen Bass, a Los Angeles Democrat and chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, described "defund the police" as "arguably the worst slogan of all time" and recently asked the rhetorical question why "the police serve for social problems ». She continued, "Why don't cities care about their social problems so that they don't have to spend so much money on stepping up law enforcement?" But it is simply not true that police officers have become nurses, therapists and social workers. This claim is a disdain for these professions, which require years of study and training in order to support people professionally. Bass' distorted presentation also heralds confusion about what the police generally do in such cases - namely arresting people who are in crisis situations or who are simply poor. Their intervention is in no way intended to limit the damage.
The desperation that afflicts ordinary black people is either ignored or pathologized. The second leading cause of death in black children and adolescents aged 10 to 19 is suicide; the suicide rate in this population is rising faster than any other ethnic group in the United States. Between 1991 and 2017, suicide attempts by black youths of both sexes increased by 73 percent. The rates of drug abuse and alcoholism in the black population do not differ significantly from the white population. However, the alienation that often accompanies their drug use is rarely met with the same understanding. Even in illness and grief, black people are perceived differently. Instead of looking for causes that lie behind the new high in shootings - mostly affecting young black men - one falls back on simplified, racist explanations that refer to an allegedly deficient black individual. In this way, our society makes many young black men and women invisible and ultimately dispensable. Instead of compassion, there is surveillance and punishment.
New Jim Crow
The political connection of «race»And crime is a major contributor to the reproduction of racist ideology in the United States and elsewhere. The overwhelming police presence in rooms that are perceived as black - the usual police patrols in certain areas of the city, the use of officers to intimidate public schools, the police stations in social housing - mark these rooms as danger areas where the law must crack down . Hyper-surveillance in black areas means that black people are arrested disproportionately, which in turn provides justification for demanding more aggressive policing and harsher sentences. Mixing up these police practices "race»And crime, thereby criminalizing African Americans. Therein lies the institutional racism of US policing.
In 1960 James Baldwin wrote that "police work in a ghetto only works through repression." He also wrote of police officers: “Their mere presence is presumptuous, and that would be the case even if they spent the whole day handing out gummy candies to children. They embody the violence of the White World, and that world has the simple intent, for its own criminal profit and convenience, of keeping the black man cooped up where he supposedly belongs. The badge, the gun in the holster and the swinging stick vividly illustrate what happens when the black man openly defends himself against it. "
The practice of intimidation is so deeply ingrained in American policing that it exists regardless of whether officers are black or white. Perhaps the most significant change in American police force since the reform era in the 1960s has been the nationwide recruitment and training of several thousand black officers. However, the multi-ethnic nature of the police after the civil rights movement has not resulted in less racism, violence or arrests. Rather, these changes accompanied the rise in mass incarceration and, ultimately, the explosion of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Training courses that deal with internalized prejudices and are intended to promote other forms of “cultural competence” fail completely in the attempt to put an end to the unbridled racism of the police and to restore the desired social order. No further education in the world changes the fact that the police are deployed in certain parts of the city and not in others. It doesn't change the cultural biases about who commits crimes. And previous experience with the criminal justice system increases the likelihood of renewed encounters with the police. In her book “The New Jim Crow” Michelle Alexander writes that in Chicago “an unbelievable 80 percent of black male workers” have a criminal record. It's like only black people commit crimes. However, this is only the case if the police are only used in certain areas of the city to monitor people who correspond to the image of a criminal. These arrests, and possible criminal consequences, constitute what Alexander describes with "New Jim Crow": The legitimation of a complete social exclusion of former prisoners leads to the social death of a large part of the population.
We need a fresh start
Once it has been found that the police are immune to more moderate reform approaches, “defund the police” or even the demand to abolish the police altogether appear to be sensible suggestions. However, in the immediate aftermath of the Floyd uprising, anxious liberals and complacent conservatives agreed that cutting police funds would go a step too far for most Americans. The American Enterprise Institute cited polls designed to prove the unpopularity of this proposal, specifically mentioning a poll that found that 61 percent of black voters were against "cuts" in the police force; the only question with this response rate, however, related to the complete abolition of police authorities. In the same poll, 62 percent of blacks and 37 percent of white respondents said they were in favor of "cutting some funding for police forces in their community and redistributing them towards social services."
This sheds light on the contradicting views of the African American population, but also on how novel the demands of the Black Lives Matter movement are. The political leadership of our country has tried for the last 50 years to convince the population that the greatest danger to their lives is to fall victim to a violent crime. Such fears cannot be resolved within a few weeks.
The important thing about social movements is that they force people to deal with an issue more intensely than usual. In terms of police brutality, the prevalence and duration of the recent protests have left a broad segment of the population grappling with issues that black people have been fighting for over a century. Note the change in opinion regarding the Black Lives Matter movement: today, seven years after its inception, it is finally being supported by a broader public. Now that millions of whites understand the gravity of police brutality against blacks, the prospect that they would ultimately consider abolishing the police force as a solution hardly seems utopian - especially given the daily images of racist and brutal policing from all over the US .
We need a fresh start. A solution supported by many can hardly be found overnight. Nor should one infer from this, however, that cutting police budgets is impossible, or that we will never be able to say goodbye to an armed class of civil servants who are anxious to defend a deeply racist and unjust social order, which forcibly denies a large part of the population, especially black people, their basic needs.
The removal of police funds is a first step in a lengthy process that could end with the abolition of the American police force. The repeated failure of comprehensive and effective reforms has brought us to a point where concepts such as the cutting of funds or the abolition of the police have also become mainstream. These demands do not mean that activists are indifferent to violence and crime, which also exists in the working class. Rather, the argument begins to point out the connection between the generous financing of the police on the one hand and a lack of support for social infrastructures on the other. The latter could contribute to the quality of life of black people in poverty and of working class blacks. In this respect, it could actually help to take something away from here in order to use it better elsewhere to alleviate crime and violence as well as the suffering that arises from them. However, reducing the budget for the police to a minimum will not be enough to mobilize the resources that would be necessary to rebuild these communities. But it would shift decades of law and order in the direction of care and support. The abolition of the police force may be far-fetched for some. In fact, the racism of the police has been entrenched for too long. It's not enough to tweak it a little here and there. The whole system must go, above all its most hideous support - the allegation of black crime and guilt. The vision of a new, just society must inevitably oppose the racist barbarism of the American police. We need a fresh start.
The text first appeared in the © New Yorker. From the American by Charlotte Thießen and Lisa Jeschke for contrast Translation Collectives
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