"Imagine, what a world could be like in which we invested in nourishing people; (in their education, healthcare, environment, shelter)— rather than putting all of our money into punishment."
"Defund the police" has become a rallying cry and a North Star of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The origins of the police's recently brutality lies in Southern slave patrols and the criminalization of the poor. Police enforced Jim Crow laws and today they enforce the racist criminal justice system, and promote violence and fear, and they often don't actually make neighborhoods safer.
Many people instantly have adverse reactions when they hear about the police, but it's very logical when you consider the ways that cities' massive police budgets could be redistributed to other underfunded programs. Defunding the police means shifting some power away from the cops and towards mental healthcare, community engagement, education, and transformative justice training. "The people who respond to crises in our community should be the people who are best-equipped to deal with those crises," says Minneapolis organization MPD150. Police could be replaced by counselors, by people trained in de-escalation, and by organizations equipped to deal with the nuances of community needs.
Increases in policing can actually lead to increases in crime. "We have such a dearth of funding in education and a lack of prioritization in education. We can't afford to waste money by paying police officers to come in and not just disrupt education, but really funnel kids away from the educational system and into the criminal system," said Sylvia Torres-Guillén, the ACLU of California's director of education equity. "Studies have shown that students are more likely not to graduate from high school if they are arrested. Every time law enforcement touches a student, they are more likely not to complete school."
Things can't continue as they are, with the police receiving massive amounts of funding so they can criminalize the poor while support systems flounder. For context, "Minneapolis, where George Floyd was killed, passed its budget in December, and it increased its budget for police by $10 million to a total of $193 million. Here's what they're spending on other things: $31 million for affordable housing; $250,000 for community organizations working with at-risk youth; $400,000 for the Office of Crime Prevention," said Katherine Wells in The Atlantic. After passing this budget, Minneapolis's police department instituted a variety of reforms, including implicit-bias training—but this didn't stop an officer from killing George Floyd in cold blood, and it clearly didn't heal the deeper-rooted issues in the department.
But after George Floyd was killed and global scrutiny turned towards the Minneapolis police department, the City Council announced that the city would disband the police entirely. "We have to do better for our community," said City Councilman Steve Fletcher. "And frankly, if the cops are going to treat me like I'm the enemy when I cut a sliver of the increase of their budget, there's no incentive to not go big because I'm going to get treated that way regardless. So I might as well go for the real change that I actually think is going to protect our community and make us safe in the long run."
Defunding the police is very possible and actually would be quite beneficial for so many reasons. There's a reason it's become a rallying cry for millions. Some celebrities are even jumping on and joining the movement, using their voices to call on lawmakers to defund and even abolish the police.
Lizzo has been using her platforms for good for a long time, and she's definitely been speaking out about Black Lives Matter, encouraging her fans to buy from Black-owned businesses.
2. John Legend
The singer made some significant donations with his wife, Chrissy Teigen, and he also publicly called to defund the police in an Instagram post.
3. Jane Fonda
Jane Fonda supported the Black Panthers in the 1970s. She visited Angela Davis in prison, held fundraisers for the Black Panthers, and hid members of the party in her home—and of course she's still standing up for what's right, appearing in a Black Panther uniform in a recent TV interview and calling to defund the police.
She recently spoke about white privilege on Rolling Stone, stating, "Because we're white, we have had privilege. Even the poorest of us have had privilege. And we need to recognize that, and we have to understand what it is that keeps racism in place — the policies, redlining, banking policies, mortgage policies. All of the things that are really making it very, very difficult for black people to lift themselves up. The policies have to be changed, and then white people have to understand the history that has led to this and we have to try to change within ourselves."
4. The Weeknd
"Keep supporting our brothers and sisters out there risking everything to push for actual change for our black lives," the Weeknd wrote. "Urging everyone with big pockets to give and give big and if you have less please give what you can even if it's a small amount."
5. Natalie Portman
Portman admitted she was initially hesitant about defunding the police in an Instagram post. "When I first heard #defundthepolice, I have to admit my first reaction was fear. My whole life, police have made me feel safe. But that's exactly the center of my white privilege. The police make me as a white woman feel safe, while my black friends, family, and neighbors feel the opposite: police make them feel terror. Police are the 6th leading cause of death for black men in this country. These are not isolated incidents. Reforms have not worked," she wrote.
"Minneapolis, where George Floyd was murdered, is one of the most progressive police forces in the country, having undergone extensive anti-bias training. I am grateful to the leaders in the @mvmnt4blklives who have made us question the status quo. And who have made us imagine, what a world could be like in which we invested in nourishing people; (in their education, healthcare, environment, shelter)— rather than putting all of our money into punishment. I've gotten to the age in my life, where if my gut feels uncomfortable, I take the situation as wrong. But this concept initially made me uncomfortable because I was wrong. Because the system that makes me feel comfortable is wrong."
6. America Ferrera
"Right now, police are shoving and batoning and ramming through crowds of peaceful protesters, even in our supposed liberal bastions - NYC & LA," wrote America Ferrera." "Maybe even especially in our seemingly progressive cities to make a point. And I think "How is this possible? How is this happening in my country? How have we gotten here?" And if I dare to listen, I hear that Black people are saying to me, to all of us, 'America, welcome to America. We haven't "gotten" here, we've been here.' The fact that I have lived 36 years of life, and am just now having to truly reckon with the shock and pain and disbelief of what emboldened state sanctioned violence in the USA looks like, is the fact of my privilege, my naïveté, my disconnect from the reality of cause and effect. I do not believe myself to be white, but I am not Black, and have not had to live in this country in a Black body and therefore I am ignorant and sheltered from the ways Black people have had to live in their bodies in this country. Becoming aware of my ignorance is shocking and scary and not comfortable, but I would not wish this moment away for the sake of my comfort. I would not hope for us to go back to what felt like peaceful times to some of us and breathless invisibility to others. What I hope for is the courage to stay uncomfortable, for the strength to keep my eyes open, for the ability to listen and learn and truly expand my capacity to understand. May we stay vulnerable long enough to really hear what Black leaders are calling for, to see the vision they have for a new way, and as we so often have been in this country, be led by them toward more freedom. If you're looking to listen & learn, BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME by @tanehisipcoatesis a good place to start."
7. Brie Larson
The actress has been taking action by participating in the #SharetheMicNow challenge, asking Black women to take over her Instagram to speak out, and fostering conversations about racism in healthcare and more. She also celebrated the Minneapolis City Council's decision to disband their police department.
8. Taraji P. Hensen
The writer and political candidate has been an outspoken supporter of Black Lives Matter, posting in support of Colin Kaepernick and calling out the way police target predominantly Black communities.
9. Talib Kweli
Talib Kweli is a longtime Black Lives Matter advocate. The host of the show People's Party with Talib Kweli has worked to educate people on the difference between All Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter. He's also critiqued Donald Trump's response to the virus. Trump "might not think he's a fascist, but he's moving in fascist ways," he said on Jimmy Fallon this week. "When he says that black people rioting are thugs, and he says the press are the enemy of the people, [cops] feel empowered to shoot thugs. They feel empowered to shoot at the press, because the press is the enemy of the people. I watched a Black CNN dude get arrested on live TV. This is insane. When the police are targeting the press, we don't have a democracy or a republic or whatever you want to call it; we have fascism."
10. Megan Rapinoe
In 2016 Megan Rapinoe voiced her support for Black Lives Matter protestors, writing, "I haven't experienced over-policing, racial profiling, police brutality or the sight of a family member's body lying dead in the street...But I cannot send idly by while there are people in this country who have had to deal with that kind of heartache."
Read the full letter here, via Movement 4 Black Lives:
"Black communities across the nation are mourning the deaths of George Floyd, tortured to death by Minneapolis police, Ahmaud Arbery, a jogger who was killed while running in a residential neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia, Breonna Taylor an EMT killed while asleep in her bed in Louisville, KY, Dreasjon Reed in Indianapolis and Tony McDade in Tallahassee. Their names are added to a devastatingly long list of Black people who have been killed at the hands of vigilantes or law enforcement. Not to mention the others whose names we don't yet know, and may never know since they were killed without a camera recording it.
At the same time, the United States leads the world in COVID-19 cases. So far, more than 100,000 people — enough to fill a football stadium– have perished from the virus,with over one million cases confirmed, and those numbers don't reflect all the people dying from virus-related illnesses. Black people are suffering disproportionately from COVID-19, four times more likely to die than their white neighbors.
It is important to state this within the context of the scourge of anti-Black police terror and the resulting uprisings taking place across the U.S.
The COVID-19 deaths and the deaths caused by police terror are connected and consequential to each other. The United States does not have a national healthcare system. Instead, we have the largest military budget in the world, and some of the most well-funded and militarized police departments in the world, too. Policing and militarization overwhelmingly dominate the bulk of national and local budgets. In fact, police and military funding has increased every single year since 1973, and at the same time, funding for public health decreased every year, crystallized most recently when the Trump administration eliminated the US Pandemic Response Team in 2018, citing "costs."
Black communities are living in persistent fear of being killed by state authorities like police, immigration agents or even white vigilantes who are emboldened by state actors. According to the Urban Institute, in 1977, state and local governments spent $60 billion on police and corrections . In 2017, they spent $194 billion. A 220 percent increase. Despite continued profiling, harassment, terror and killing of Black communities, local and federal decision-makers continue to invest in the police, which leaves Black people vulnerable and our communities no safer.
Where could that money go? It could go towards building healthy communities, to the health of our elders and children,to neighborhood infrastructure, to education, to childcare, to support a vibrant Black future. The possibilities are endless.
We join in solidarity with the freedom fighters in Minneapolis, Louisville, and across the United States. And we call for the end to police terror.
JOIN US IN DEMANDING YOUR LOCAL OFFICIALS TAKE THE PLEDGE TO:
- Vote no on all increases to police budgets
- Vote yes to decrease police spending and budgets
- Vote yes to increase spending on Health care, education and community programs that keep us safe."