Abolition is Progress, “Reform” is Death

Photo by Sammy Muñoz

Raymond Matthews

Executive Content Editor

There are no more eloquent, creative ways to say that we’re tired of watching lynchings on the internet. Black folks spent all of last summer watching video after video of Black people being murdered and harassed on social media, only to relive that trauma this month while anxiously awaiting Chauvin’s conviction.

Just 20 minutes before George Floyd got “justice” from the criminal justice system responsible for his death, a 16-year-old Black girl, Ma’Khia Bryant, was murdered by officers she called to help her. Yet, in this endless cycle of death, Black people are expected to be content with impotent “reform.”

Any reforms or individual convictions are pseudo-progress meant to distract from radical ideas like abolition that would actually protect Black people. Hollow gestures like anti-bias training and laws designed to “reform” a class of state-sanctioned terrorists are meant to pacify us until the next inevitable public lynching.

The George Floyd Act, which outlawed chokeholds, wouldn’t even have saved his life. Derek Chauvin is the 7th cop to be charged with murder since 2005, out of approximately 15,000 police killings. Convicting one murderer out of a pool of thousands still walking the streets and terrorizing Black folks is not “justice,” and to claim otherwise is a slap in the face to the Black community.

Breonna Taylor’s murderers are walking the streets and getting book deals for her homicide. The 26-year veteran officer who “accidentally” killed Daunte Wright by confusing her handgun for her taser, was responsible for training new officers to overcome their “implicit biases.” 

44 Black trans people were killed this year, many at the hands of police officers — none of whom have faced consequences for murdering innocents who haven’t even received mass protests in their honor.

What law(s) — no matter how comprehensive — could possibly reform this? 

Every liberal attempt to end police violence has failed because anti-Black violence in the name of protecting the status quo is the point of policing — it always has been.

American police were formed to catch slaves and quell working class labor protests against the white upper class in the 1700s. Modern police lynchings are the logical progression of a system designed to terrorize Black people in the name of white supremacy.

Historically, all police reforms have failed to end police violence or materially improve conditions for Black folks. Police commissions throughout the 1960s issued reforms to curb anti-Black police violence in the civil rights era, most of which were ignored by officers. Similar attempts at reform were made in the response to the murders of Rodney King, Eric Garner, and Michael Brown, and nearly countless others, all with little to no demonstrable results.

After George Floyd’s murder, over 30 states have passed more than 140 police reform laws, but 181 Black people have been killed by police since Floyd himself was murdered. 

These laws are nothing but pacifiers that stall revolutionary ideas and perpetuate anti-Black violence. The only thing the American legal system can do for Black folks is to abolish the murderers whom it itself created to terrorize us.

Crime is not random; it is a response to a lack of resources. Abolition is not about condemning people to violence, it’s about creating the conditions that would stop harmful crime at its root and end police violence.

When abolition is brought up, the natural question is: who will keep us safe? But the reality is, that’s never been their job. A sample study of three major cities found that police only spent four percent of their time responding to violent crime, and spent the rest dealing with things like traffic violations and noncriminal calls. In fact, half of all violent crimes in the U.S. aren’t even reported to law enforcement.

Preventing violent crime requires proactive community aid, not reactive police violence. If the billions of dollars spent on policing nationwide were redirected toward education, healthcare, job training, access to food, water, housing, and other vital resources, the police would quickly become obsolete.

Crime is not random; it is a response to a lack of resources. Abolition is not about condemning people to violence, it’s about creating the conditions that would stop harmful crime at its root and end police violence.

Abolition is not extreme — allowing the police to murder hundreds of Black people every year with no end in sight is extreme.

For local Isla Vista Residents, please check out the link below for a list of alternatives to calling the Santa Barbara Police Department (this database also has resources for most American cities).