Reform or Disband Police? ll By Rev. Mary Coday Edwards, MA.
If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.Lilla Watson, Indigenous Australian artist
Humanity’s collective liberation is bound up, interconnected, with the planet we live on and all its habitants. But we live as if Paul Simon spoke and sang truth: ““I am a rock, I am an island… I touch no one and no one touches me.”
We move through air like it’s empty space, but it’s not. It’s like moving through a body of water. We shift molecules and atoms around us. We propel our way through bits of energy (1). Some of it enters our bodies. We breathe in COVID-19 and expel it onto our neighbors. We too ARE energy and it intermingles with the energy of others. When we’re paying attention and not focused on our own fears and insecurities, we can walk into a room and feel others’ energies emanating from them. We join the cosmic dance—we can do so consciously or unconsciously, but consciously awakens us to our interconnectedness.
What boomerangs back?
The global outcry at the recent senseless deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd has revealed just how angry and aggrieved citizens around the world are with police brutality—specifically toward people of color. COVID-19 has also highlighted our nation’s long history of ongoing racial injustice and health inequities. Communities of color including the black community, the indigenous community, and the Latino community have suffered disproportionally greater in terms of health and economic loss.
These inequities are well documented and described as a result of structural racism, defined as, “… a system that promotes ongoing discrimination and disadvantage through perpetual inequities in housing, education, employment, earning, benefits, credit, media, health care, and the criminal justice sectors (2).”
If we “love our neighbors as ourselves,” then we work to change this. If we can’t do that, at least we can recognize the fact that the hate one throws out boomerangs back and thus harms ourselves.
Systemic and structural racism
I commend the police officers who took a knee, extended apologies, and embraced protesters. However, those are actions done on an individual level. People are demonstrating on the streets for reform of systemic racism and the use of excessive violence within the police at an institutional level. These reforms include transparency, for repercussions against the police of misconduct, and a demilitarization of the police force (which politicians gain the most from their investments in the weapons’ industry and from contributions?). Police unions are one of the greatest hindrance to those reforms. For officers accused of wrongdoing, most arbitration is held behind closed doors. The bad eggs are often reinstated, experiencing little or no fallout from their misconduct (3, 4).
We’ve come to over-rely on law enforcement. Reform includes reducing police budgets and transferring those funds to entities better equipped to handle the calls that so often now directed to the police, such as school disciplinary issues, verbal disputes between family members or strangers, and the homeless in the doorway. These redirected funds should go to programs that REDUCE harm, such as domestic violence shelters, to mental health projects, and to more school counselors. Send fire department EMTs to opioid overdose calls.
We’ve watched police violently suppressing protests due to their own officers’ abuse—time and money that could be better used in catching offenders of serious crime.
I suggest you read the following link, which covers many of these topics: https://www.vox.com/2020/6/3/21276824/defund-police-divest-explainer
Those in favor of disbanding the police
Those who vote to disband the police no longer believe the myth that policing in America was created to protect and serve the masses. The policing institution was created by the dominant class as an instrument of control—usually through violence.
Historical regional differences exist. From the South came slave patrols, looking for runaway slaves, slaves who were believed to be plotting harm against the plantation owners, and those planning insurrections. Evidence to the contrary of any of that was ignored. Slave patrols remained in operation during the Civil War, and when the war ended, many continued on to maintain control over free African American citizens. The KKK has its roots in the post-civil war disbanding of the slave patrols (5,6).
In the pre-union, industrialized North, police were brought in to bring disgruntled laborers under control. Riots were the only effective political strategy laborers had against exploitation by the economic elites. The police quelling the rioters gave the illusion that order was being maintained by rule of law instead of at the decision by the economic elite.
With its roots in violence, reform is impossible for those in favor of disbanding the police. We have a leader who said, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” repeating a racially charged warning said in 1967 by Miami Police Chief Walter Hedley.
In nature [of which humanity is part of], nothing exists alone.Rachel Carson
At a subatomic level, the universe shows itself to be in relationship. Einstein called it “spooky action at a distance.” Physicist John Polkinghorne calls this interconnectedness a “… deep-seated relationality present in the fundamental structure of the physical world” (7). Out of quantum physics have developed system laws, where elements adjust their properties to those of the others; none can be modified without causing a modification to the others. Physicist Ian Barbour said that the being of any entity is comprised not just of its individual parts, but primarily by its relationships and its participation in more inclusive patterns (8).
White people have much to learn from our indigenous, black, and Latino communities. Rebecca Adamson says, “The indigenous understanding has its basis of spirituality in a recognition of the interconnectedness and interdependence of all living things, a holistic and balanced view of the world.” In addition, mystics, seers and poets have long known this togetherness as the fabric of reality.
And so it is. Violence committed against each other impacts us all. We’re all hooked together. No one is an untouched rock or island.
If anything I’ve written sparks an interest in you, talk to People House counselors. Also, The Society for Psychotherapy provides excellent links on how to educate yourself and ways to be involved: https://societyforpsychotherapy.org/actionable-steps-for-therapists-and-all-human-beings-in-response-to-the-racial-pandemic/
Notes & Sources:
- There are many websites on this topic. This is but one: https://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/educators/lessons/xray_spectra/background-atoms.html#:~:text=All%20matter%20is%20made%20up,of%20neutral%20charge%20(neutrons).&text=These%20shells%20are%20actually%20different,the%20nucleus%20of%20the%20atom.
- June 2, 2020. https://www.theflipside.io/archives/police-reform
- The History of the Police – SAGE Publications. 50819_ch_1.pdf
- Polkinghorne, J.C. Quantum Theory: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002; pg. 80.
- Barbour, Ian. Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2000; pg. 175.
About the Author: Rev. Mary Coday Edwards is a Spiritual Growth Facilitator and People House Minister. A life-long student of spirituality, Mary spent almost 20 years living, working and sojourning abroad in Asia, Southeast Asia, East Africa, and Latin America before finding her spiritual connection at People House and completing its Ministerial Program. Past studies include postgraduate studies from the University of South Africa in Theological Ethics/Ecological Justice, focusing on the spiritual and physical interconnectedness of all things. With her MA in Environmental Studies from Boston University, abroad she worked and wrote on environmental sustainability issues at both global and local levels, in addition to working in refugee repatriation.