To Stop Police Violence, We Need Better Questions — and Bigger Demands

It’s impossible to take the violence out of policing

Mariame Kaba
GEN
Published in
6 min readSep 25, 2020

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Photo: Sarah-Ji

Once again, there is justified outrage at police acting to kill with impunity. I understand the anger and also feel rage. The lack of concern for Black life, though unsurprising, remains gutting. And yet, I hope that we’ve finally arrived at a moment when more people interrogate why so many of us continue to demand that the police stop being the police.

“Why do the police keep murdering Black people and others with impunity?” simply isn’t a good question. Policing has to be racist, patriarchal, ableist, homophobic, and transphobic to meet its purpose. If you want to maintain a white supremacist, cis-hetero patriarchal, capitalist state, then particular groups have to be targeted, controlled, and contained. This leaves us with nowhere to go and very little to do.

We need better questions and better demands. Both are within our reach — and so is the possibility of achieving police abolition.

A better question to ask is, “What do we need to do to stop police from killing Black people and others with impunity?” We can start by reducing people’s contact with police altogether. We can defund police departments and invest in our communities. How do we do these things? That is a generative question which might get us closer to true public safety.

Have people been offered a vision of public safety that doesn’t include police? If not, why not? The fact that police abolition is unthinkable to so many people is profoundly dangerous. It means that police have so thoroughly colonized and dominated our thinking that we are unable to even imagine a world where they don’t exist. The fact is that we haven’t always had police. What makes us believe that we always will — or that we always will have to?

It’s not simply that we can’t imagine a world without police, but that we are disciplined into not having that imagination. Cop shows and other pro-law

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Mariame Kaba
GEN
Writer for

Founder/Director Project NIA (@projectnia), Co-Founder (@chitaskforce) & (@ChiFreeSchool), Abolitionist, Organizer, Educator, Curator, Hallmark Channel watcher