By SUSAN K. SMITH
Crazy Faith Ministries
After the killing of George Floyd by ex-officer and now, convicted felon Derek Chauvin, the battle cry became “defund the police,” a phrase which immediately caused many to panic. While some people believe that police departments should be abolished – which I don’t – most people with whom I have talked believe that police departments across the country have become too militarized.
Instead of funding police departments to continue to get weapons of war, many believe, use funds that would have been siphoned to police departments for those types of purchases to invest in the communities which have the highest crime rates, largely because they are lacking jobs, education and decent housing, according to a column published by Brookings.edu.
It is convenient for the Republicans – who have no weapon or tool for winning elections except racism, which they use to keep White people afraid – to use the phrase in order to play to White fear.
It seems to be the reality in this country that Black and Brown people are “the enemy” and that police believe their role to be to attack that enemy in order to destroy them. It is a mentality of war, and in war, “the enemy” is to be decimated, not injured or maimed, which might allow them to get up and attack the soldiers from the other side. Police – and a large portion of the American public – have been socialized to believe that Black and Brown people most especially, are “the enemy.” The goal is to destroy them, NPR reported.
Black and Brown people all over the world are targets for White hatred, a byproduct of white supremacy, and also for White fear. Black people were criminalized when they dared run for their freedom and Slave Patrols were formed to hunt them down and kill them, if they thought it necessary, or in today’s language, were “in fear for their lives.”
There was always a desire to remind Black people of their inferiority, causing a lack of respect for them, even when they entered the military and fought for this country, the Equal Justice Initiative reported. The recent harassment of a Black Army officer – in uniform – caused even far-Right wing Rev. Pat Robertson to say, “Enough!” Robertson said something had to be done about bad policing, as reported by NPR and Yahoo News.
Defunding the police – i.e., reducing funds spent on weapons of war – and diverting a part of those funds to create new curricula for training, a training which would include courses on humanizing Black people so that police saw human beings and not objects – would be yet another goal and focus of defunding “what is” in order to create “what should be.”
In Columbus, Ohio, which though it boasts of being one of the safest cities in Ohio is actually number one in police shootings in the state and 13th in the nation, the police shooting which resulted in the death of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant has caused more pain as residents try to make sense out of nonsense, according to a recent New York Times article.
Bryant was shot and killed within seconds of police arriving on the scene. The quickness with which the teen was shot was reminiscent of past shootings in Ohio. Andre Hill and Casey Goodson likewise survived only seconds after being approached by police, and it took two seconds for police to shoot and kill 12-year-old Tamir Rice in 2015. Tamir’s “crime” was playing with a toy gun, an older New York Times article revealed. As young Tamir lay dying, police refused to let his sister attend to him.
The way police officers are trained to regard Black people as enemies, combined with their access to military weapons – weapons of war – are major factors in the plethora of killings of Black people by police. “Defunding” the police – i.e., reviewing what funds are currently being used for and diverting them to communities of color and for the development of a training curriculum that would help police see Black people as humans and not as enemies of war, might be a first step in helping to end the state-sanctioned violence carried out by police which has left Black communities all over the country distressed, disgusted and emotionally ripped apart.
Saving Black lives is not a terrorist activity. It is an act of compassion and overdue need. Defunding the capacity of police officers to mow Black people down with impunity and with the reassurance that they will not be held to accountability has to stop.
And the politicization and deliberate misrepresentation of what that phrase means needs to stop, too. People’s lives are in danger – people whose lives should matter which have never mattered in this country.
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith is the founder and director of Crazy Faith Ministries. She is available for speaking. Her latest book, With Liberty and Justice for Some: The Bible, the Constitution, and Racism in America is available at all booksellers. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.