Please be mindful in reading the following news, as it may be particularly upsetting regarding racism, child abuse, and sexual assault.
Last month, a Black schoolgirl in the U.K. was horrifyingly strip-searched by Met police officers under the false and racist suspicion of her carrying cannabis, which she described as causing her massive trauma akin to child abuse. Unfortunately, this is a common practice of dehumanizing Black children A similar incident occurred in New York in 2020, when administrators strip-searched four Black girls for drugs because they appeared to be “hyper and giddy” during lunch. This demonstrates the disturbing way policing and hyper-surveillance of Black people begins during childhood and is diffused through other institutions such as our workplaces and individuals.
With countless examples of police officers instigating gender violence, we have to always ask: who are the police designed to protect? A spokesperson for Black Lives Matter UK said: “Once again, we are reminded of the fact that the police are the perpetrators and there are no lengths they wouldn’t go to inflict harm on vulnerable people.” This is important to keep in mind when so many people’s immediate reaction to any form of violence is to increase police presence, as seen by U.K. politicians calling for more police officers to be stationed across schools.
When other folks call to defund the police as a response to the harm they cause, or raise the topic of the abolition of prisons, one of the first protests we hear is “But what about the rapists?” This sentiment paradoxically ignores the reality that as we see in the news above, police themselves abuse their power to sexually harass women, but are not held accountable in any way. It begs the question: do these institutions care about the impact of these assaults on their victims, or do they use the carceral system as a means of diminishing access to resources for some, while applying lenient standards for others?
Our workplaces can and must be leaders in shifting our understanding of safety. Where do punitive policies in the workplace disproportionately affect marginalized communities? Who benefits from or is made less safe by certain workplace security policies? What resources for education may need to be developed for your teams to reduce punishment-oriented mindsets? It is when we all divest from the logic of policing that we are more likely to move toward a safer world for Black folks who are negatively targeted by it from birth.