A Case for Police Abolition

written by aga


CW: discussion of racist police brutality and murder

Police as part of kyriarchal oppression

The justice system in democratic capitalist countries – and with it the police and the prison industrial complex – are inherently white supremacist institutions enabling kyriarchy. Abolishing the police would mean chipping away a very potent piece of this imperialist and racist system that makes deviant bodies (non-white but also non-male, non-heterosexual, non-property-owning, non-human etc.) imperceptible and non-existent.

Kyriarchy makes sure to symbolically erase black production of meaning – in media and everyday conversations, in school curriculums, through marketing and consumer products, etc. The extent of this becomes obvious every time racist murders occur, globally or locally: The only way white allies seem to know how to express their outrage in these cases is by sharing footage of the acts, including the brutalised and dead bodies of black people. In doing so however, we only help kyriarchy perpetuate the image of the removed or dead black body. Further, by sharing these images, as white people, we traumatise communities of colour and so inflict additional pain (head over to Aphro-ism to delve deeper into this subject).

The police and prison system, as part of the white supremacist structure that is kyriarchy, is then responsible for upholding the prohibition of black expression and production of knowledge and meaning in this world through practically and literally removing and murdering black bodies merely for their existence in a white-dominated world, such as most recently Alton Sterling and the countless others who were killed by US police (click here for a video visualisation of names of the victims and the things they were doing when shot, indicating that white production of meaning constructs the black body as inherently suspicious and dangerous as well as worthless).

Abolish the police because Black Lives Matter

Amongst most white activists the fear of and hatred towards police begins with showing up to a demo or an action and ends by leaving it and returning to the safety of our homes. Yes, the cops terrorise some of us in our homes and they try to ruin our lives by criminalising us, but generally speaking they don’t brutalise us nor do they kill us and get away with it.

And yes, most of the police in the UK do not carry fire arms which statistically lowers the rate of murder victims killed by UK cops but this does not mean that the police here don’t discriminate against and brutalise black people (the MacPherson enquiry comes to mind, deeming the Metropolitan Police as ‘institutionally racist’).

So the fact remains that the police is an inherently racist institution established to protect the white rich status quo. To practice anti-racism then, as a logical consequence, we have to start rejecting and abolishing the police.

So instead of derailing the conversation from ‘Black Lives Matter’ to ‘All Lives Matter’ or comparing your white activist arrest to what is happening to the Baton Rouge protestors for example, white activists, including me, should shut up and listen. Inform yourself, get involved and remember that it is your job to dismantle white supremacy.

Police abolition – but how?

If you are new to the topic of prison/police abolition, a good start would be to read ‘Are Prisons Obsolete’ by Angela Davis, where she sketches a history of the prison industrial complex that shows exactly how prisons have been established as a means to remove black bodies from the city and uphold the white status quo. Davis takes her knowledge about the history and applies it to today’s white supremacist politics. By doing so she automatically invites the reader to question and reject the perceived connection between prisons and  protection, safety and justice.

As a next step head over to Imagine Alternatives where you can access one of the most thought provoking essays including a set of exercises that will help you navigate life with as little reliance on police as possible.

Googling ‘police abolition’, ‘restorative justice’, ‘community accountability’ will give you an additional flood of ideas on how to stop relying on police and how to start actively dismantling this dangerous, racist and classist arm of kyriarchy.