I believe in prison abolition. I am not a perfect abolitionist. I believe that it is not only ideal but essential to our survival as Black people that we defund police, close prisons, and implement practices within our communities that are divorced from carceral systems. And while I am still struggling with what that entails, what those outcomes will look like, and what non-carceral responses to violence and harm embody, I hold onto one thing- what it means to be Black right here and now, in the very carceral society we currently live in and not some distant future abolitionist utopia.
I’ve seen the Perfect Abolitionists’ responses to calls to arrest the murderers of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade and too many other Black people killed by police who have received no justice. The Perfect Abolitionist says that believing in abolition means not supporting or advocating for police to be arrested and charged, which simply continues the perpetuation of carceral systems. The Perfect Abolitionist instead focuses on the goal of total prison/police abolition. And while I understand and agree with the logic in the abstract and respect the work being done by abolitionists promoting and facilitating prison abolition and transformative justice/restorative justice, I can’t ignore the silencing and idealism of this particular ideal in practice.
What does transformative/restorative justice look like for murder by police? How do we “hold accountable” as a community police who kill us, when they exist solely to execute us? And where does that leave the families of those murdered who are demanding their loved ones’ murderers be arrested and prosecuted?
I think in our fight for abolition, it’s important we not sacrifice our connections with our communities in treating their needs as less significant than our ideals. I do not and cannot agree with doing so. I do not and cannot support any “advocacy” that says to ignore the cries of my people who are hurting and tell them what they should be feeling instead. I don’t agree that fighting for abolition and doing abolitionist work should involve chastising oppressed people for leaning into the only options to receive any kind of justice that are currently available to them.
We know that arresting cops will not destroy the system, that prisons don’t end violence but merely concentrate it, that even if these cops went to jail, others would still be on the streets enacting violence against us. Cops going to jail is not a solution to the police brutality and brutal murder of Black people. But who does it help to condescend to people who are being violated, whose loved ones are being killed right in front of them, who are hurting, who have received no justice telling them that they are fighting the wrong fight? That they are fighting for today when they should be fighting for someday. Even if it’s just small change, even knowing there is still more work to be done, they need something to give today. If we discount anything that isn’t complete and immediate overhaul, where does that leave us?
And I know you will say you live these experiences and you are also in these communities navigating this violence while keeping your politics perfect and pure, and that is great for you.
All the cookies.
The other 43 million of us aren’t here for cookies, we’re trying to survive as white supremacy does everything possible to kill us. We can and will still continue to fight and advocate and push for defunding police, abolishing prisons, and all real, meaningful change through destruction of the system while supporting our people crying out for something, anything, right now in streets engulfed in flames. Because they deserve to feel the relief those wins bring them individually as we fight for our collective freedom.
Abolition will come but it won’t come tomorrow so until then, throw all cops in jail.