Who is Protected in the Workplace Policies and by Society at Large?


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This year, we’ve seen one too many events of police brutality against Black people, but we’ve also seen organized worldwide protests demanding change – specifically: defunding the police in America. Some have questioned whether this particular act of change will do more harm than good. After all, some might wonder, if we defund the police who will protect us when there is immediate danger? Who do we call for help if not the police? 

The better questions to ask are: What if ‘protection’ for some communities actually means protection from the police? And, what if calling for help from the police in some communities is what is dangerous? 

For some historical context, let’s go back to May 13th, 1985 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A stand-off took place between a Black liberation group called MOVE and law enforcement in a residential neighborhood of West Philadelphia made up predominantly of Black people. During this firefight, a police helicopter dropped a bomb on the rowhouse where the group resided. The bombing resulted in a fire which the police commanded firefighters to ignore. It killed 11 people – 5 children included – and destroyed 61 homes in the process. It wasn’t until November 12th, 2020 that the city of Philadelphia officially apologized for this catastrophe

This largely forgotten and unknown national tragedy is one of the many examples in history in which black communities required protection from the police and state-sanctioned violence. Why would the police – if they have any concern for protecting people – drop a bomb on people agitating for black liberation? Might the police actually be protecting white supremacy?

The call to defund the police, therefore, is predicated on the reality that so-called law enforcement can never protect communities of colour, working class and other marginalized communities, because the institution has never been designed to do so – in fact it’s central to their marginalisation. We see this by examining the origins of policing: for example, slave owners who set up slave patrols to protect their ‘property’, followed by wealthy businessmen calling for ‘law and order’ who funded their own police forces to police immigrants and people made poor to keep them from unionising and voting because of how it would impact their power. Defunding the police acknowledges the reality that an institution central to the maintenance of oppression (including racism, sexism, disablism, cissexism, islamophobia and classism)  cannot ever be expected to be anything else

In New York City alone, the government spends more in policing than it does on the Department of Health, Homeless Services, Housing Preservation and Development, and Youth and Community development combined. Defunding the police is a step to reducing police power by instead reallocating resources to funding community-building institutions, education and health care so that we create new conditions in which we all operate. Defunding the police is a step to building a new world. A world that prioritises care over carcerality and people over profit. 

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