As Aislinn Pulley wrote on July 8, 2016 in an op-ed on Truthout.org entitled “The System That Killed Alton Sterling and Philando Castile Cannot Be Reformed,” the main role of the police in our society is to contain the unease produced in poor communities “disenfranchised by high unemployment, lack of access to quality education, health care, and affordable housing.” This is being accomplished by aggressively and violently patrolling predominantly non-white neighborhoods and by racial profiling elsewhere.
Trying to reform the police, city by city, will accomplish little or nothing when it’s the unequal racist and capitalist system that causes these crimes and his oppression to continue. “Proposed solutions that exclude envisioning a world without police and their accompanying violence, terror and murder must be challenged,” Pulley says. “What sense would it make to ask for a kinder slave patroller when the problem is slavery itself? We must challenge ourselves to connect the role of police in society to the system” that uses them to maintain itself, “and then ask why [it] requires such violence in order to exist. [Innocent] blood will continue to be shed until we are able to answer these questions collectively.
Having a Black president isn’t enough; we can see that now. What’s needed isn’t an increase in Black politicians; we now have the most Black representation in power in US history. It isn’t Black cops either, as Freddie Grey’s death shows. And it isn’t body cameras, which didn’t save the life of Alton Sterling. It’s a question of power and who has that power. Police kill because they’re being [asked] to kill.” And they’re killing black and brown people disproportionately because “Black life is disposable.
We must move forward with an honest assessment of why this country requires Black death as a part of its functioning. We must question the roots of US capitalism, which for 400 years has used Black subjugation to build and maintain its wealth, even with a Black president in power. As Martin Luther King Jr. instructed us [almost 50 years ago], we must question the very foundation of this society: ‘One day we must ask the question, “Why are there 40 million poor people in America?” When you begin to ask that question, you’re raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalist economy. More and more, we’ve got to begin to ask questions about this whole society.’
Our goal,” Pulley says, “needs to be ending the structures and systems producing needless death, misery and pain – from cash bail, to prisons, to global warming and pollution, to high-priced health care. Police violence and mass shootings are symptoms of a sick society. We must imagine and create a new one in which the full human potential of all of us can be nurtured and realized, and where violence is eradicated [planet-wide]. This requires, at minimum, living wage jobs, full education, and a society free from violence and senseless killings – a society not organized around greed and profit, but around caring for people and the Earth. We get there by remaining steadfast in our conviction that justice is on the side of the oppressed, and it is through this fight [and others, as Naomi Klein has said of addressing climate change] that we make it possible to create a society which enables liberation for all.”
As the Truthout website indicates, “Aislinn Pulley is a lead organizer with Black Lives Matter Chicago, founding the chapter as part of the Freedom Ride to Ferguson in August 2014. She is an organizer with We Charge Genocide; a founding member of Insight Arts, a cultural nonprofit that uses art for social change; as well as a member of the performance ensemble, End of the Ladder. She is also a founder of the young women’s performance ensemble dedicated to ending sexual assault, Visibility Now, and as the founder and creator of urban youth magazine, Underground Philosophy.”
Thanks for focusing our attention where it needs to be, Aislinn!