Politics

The Police Are Cool, Totally Kidding They Are the Worst

Op Ed: Abolishing the criminal injustice system is the only way forward.

The following essay will be accompanied next week by an interview with a leader of the prison abolition movement.

One day, clouds clouding in the distance, I was at my parent's house looking through old photos. My first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh birthdays, all beautiful affairs, my family and I smiling, cake and colorfully wrapped presents, and then a sudden jump to my thirteenth birthday. Where had my twelfth birthday gone? Confused, I asked my mom.


She looked at me deeply, paused, and said "you know why you didn't have a twelfth birthday." She took a deep breath, time slowed, a small smile appeared on her face. "Fuck the pigs," she whispered gently. She raised her voice to a frightening war-cry like yell, a strong bass present in her normally soft tone, her melanin shining with the stunning glow of an Ethiopian anti-fascist fighter "Gang, gang, young nigga. West-side. All power to the people."

"The police in our community occupy our area- our community- as the foreign troops occupy territory. And the police, they are not to- in our community- are not to promote welfare or our security, our safety, but they are there to contain us, to brutalize us, to murder us because they have their orders to do so. Just as the soldiers in Vietnam have their orders to destroy the Vietnamese people. The police in our community couldn't possibly be there to protect our property because we own no property… so it's very apparent that the police in our community are not for our security, but the security of the business owners in the community and also to see that the status quo is kept in tact."

- Huey P. Newton

I been trying to write this article for a minute. It feels like I've been trying to write it since been, been.

My first real attempt at writing this article was last, last August. A piece connecting the 28th anniversary of N.W.A.'s track "Fuck Tha Police" and how the police and prisons are inherently oppressive and violent institutions, their main purpose being to control populations that demand justice and an end to exploitation.

I wrote, a lot, I didn't think it was any good. Anxiety and whatever else were tugging me to my depression naps. I wasn't able to get the point across. More police killings, more police getting off for those killings. The date came and went, data was compiled, essays and reports. August came and past, and it came and passed again.

Maybe a piece on how the police and prison industry have grown since the arrival of neoliberalism, deindustrialization and the rise of that racially tinged "tough on crime" rhetoric.

I, no matter how much I tried, couldn't articulate the points I wanted to make about prisons and the police and racism and capitalism in a thousand word article.

I could have written about how the police are useless and spectacularly fail at their job. How they rarely stop crime. How they show up one hour later with a gun, their fists, and pen to write a fabricated report. I could have written about how the police are spectacular at accomplishing their job, a job that isn't about stopping crime but protecting the wealth and power and privilege of elites.

I might have written that the main function of the police is to maintain racial, economic and gender hierarchies and to uphold the foundational unequal power relations that prop up our socio-economic order - white supremacist patriarchal capitalism.

I could have written about the obscene amounts of money spent on increasingly militarized police departments while folks in Flint, Michigan don't have access to clean drinking water. I could have written about the obscene amounts of money spent on imperialist wars that steal the lives of millions while folks don't have decent paying jobs. I'd probably have touched on how the United States is a police state that incarcerates more people than any country in the world. How this police state is an extension of slavery and Jim Crow and at times an auxiliary for the KKK.

I'd have written about the mythology built around the police as necessary and brave and patriotic and how these myths are disseminated through our schools and featured prominently in our favorite movies and television shows.

I told myself I'd write about how we need jobs, mental health services, education, opportunities, better infrastructure, love, understanding and an end to the insidious norms embedded within our country's vile institutions.

I wanted to write that we don't need trigger happy cops doped up on toxic masculinity occupying our neighborhoods.

I promised myself I'd write about how my views on police come not from hate and bitterness but from a deep feeling of love for humanity. How I want to see suffering, millions of people ripped from their families for non-violent drug related charges and people gunned down in the street because the color of their skin has been criminalized, end.

I made a note to myself to write about the horrifying human cost the police and prisons have exacted on black and brown and poor people and their families.

I most likely would have written that the abolition of the police, of the prison industrial complex and other oppressive institutions will not occur without the abolition of the larger forces that necessitate their existence. I fasho would have written about how you need state violence to uphold a system that keeps the majority exploited and alienated and that both need to go.

I have written too many times, fear and indignation swelling within me, about the long list of murders police have committed with impunity. The names crash into each other, their faces combining with each hyperlink I add, with each sip of yak I drank, with each beating, each death, each cry. You can get away with anything if you created the law and filled the positions that adjudicate with your homies.

I should have written that if you seriously want justice, equality, and an end to the mass campaign of terror waged by police departments across this country, you must be honest. I would have continued that if that's what you want then there is no other solution than to disarm and abolish the police and put an end to the criminal injustice system and mass incarceration. I'd have written that it's 2017 and I sincerely, for really real, believe that we, as a society, can do better.

I don't know if I'll ever really be able to write that piece and do it well. But if I did, I'd most likely end it by writing: Fuck 👏🏿The👏🏿 Police👏🏿.

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