It’s Not Just About What We’re Getting Rid Of

From Marc Lamont Hill, in a recent interview with Democracy Now.

An abolitionist vision, of course, ultimately is a world without policing and prisons. And that builds on the work of Critical Resistance, the wonderful work of Angela Davis and Mariame Kaba and Ruth Wilson Gilmore and other important Black feminist voices, radical Black feminists, who encourage us to have these ambitious sort of freedom dreams of what the world could be. It’s important to think about that.

But it’s not just about what we’re getting rid of. It’s what we want. We want a world where people’s needs are met, where people can have access to jobs, where people can have access to mental health support. And without those things, then we’re going to continue to end up with circumstances like this.

That’s why I say an example like what we see with Walter Wallace is exactly why we need abolition, because the money we’re spending for policing should be spent to provide mental health. When people call for defunding, they’re saying, “What would it mean for a public safety force to come out rather than police? What would it mean to have a social worker or a therapist on the scene instead of these police who are trained to shoot first and ask questions later?” This is the problem. We need to reimagine what the world looks like. And we need to reimagine our social arrangement. For me, that is abolition.

So, as we fight on the ground — and we saw this in June — we went from a call to abolition, to a call to defunding, to a call to integrate police forces, to a call to reform, to police taking knees and members of Congress wearing kente cloth, right? We’ve watered down our freedom dream. We’ve taken the teeth out of the radical demand. We need to return to this vision of a future without policing and without prisons.

And to start, we begin with this defunding. Defunding is a step toward abolition, if we’re doing this the right way. And so, in Philadelphia, in Milwaukee, in Louisville, we need to be calling to take money out of these police force budgets and place them in places where people can actually have their needs met. That’s the key here. It’s like Kiese Laymon says: good love, healthy choices and second chances. We need a structure that allows for those things to happen.

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