Dear <<First Name>>,
Thank you for celebrating Black History Month with us, and Happy Women’s History Month! Black liberation movements and Black Lives Matter Boston would not be who we are today without the strategy, drive and tireless effort of our women community members in quest to build a gender equal world that is diverse, equitable and inclusive for all of us.
We also want to note the celebration of Black Lives Matter at School Week, Jan 31-Feb 4, headed by the Boston Teachers Union. Attached is their toolkit which includes 13 Guiding Principles of the BLM movement.
“This program is a helpful, and unique initiative for educating young people about Black identity as opposed to what they might learn over the course of a regular school year, or what they might experience or learn at home. We have been gearing up on a national level to really establish an ongoing infrastructure for the organization, moving from just planning the week of action and year of purpose into being a full time force for public education as a tool to advance Black liberation, base building, and influencing policy.”
- Chris R. Rogers, one of the Leaders of BLM Week at School
Learn more here.
From overt police presence in schools to the streets, It’s essential that we highlight the inequities within police departments and how they directly impact our communities.
Are we funding our oppression? Jalil Muntaquim, speaker, author of We Are Our Own Liberators, former political prisoner and activist says, “We are building the maintenance of our oppression”.
Much of abolition historiography shows us how both policing and prisons are instruments of class warfare. (Abolition MPLS). Continually, the ruling classes, also known as the land-owning classes, main interest is in preserving their economy, which significantly influences government policy. In 2021, a majority of democrats voted for $780 billion to go towards military spending. As Black Alliance for Peace so well articulates, “by increasing military spending and cutting out resources and programs necessary for the people, Biden and democrats demonstrate that what they really want to push is neoliberalism with a smile.”
Neo-liberalism can be defined as “a political approach that favors free-market capitalism, deregulation, and reduction in government spending” (Oxford). According to The Guardian, “Inequality is recast as virtuous. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive.”
How does this play out in our communities?
In the text titled, “More of the same: Unpacking the 2022 Boston Police Budget” an analysis by the ACLU of Massachusetts unpacks the Boston Police Department budget – yet again – making it clear that it is effectively no smaller than previous years’ budgets (ACLU MA).
Some key areas for consideration:
- The BPD budget is still the second-largest line item in the whole city, second only to Boston Public Schools. It is still 1.5x larger than the Cabinet of Administration and Finance (which constitutes 17 individual departments), 9x larger than the Library Department, and 110x larger than the Office of Arts and Culture (ACLU MA).
- In 2020, Boston police employees were still paid almost $58,000 more than non-BPD City employees – averaging $132,000 in yearly earnings – and over 500 BPD employees still made more than Boston’s Mayor (519 this time) (ACLU MA).
- BPD paychecks swelled even larger; among the top 20 BPD earners, almost all of them made more in FY20 than they did in FY19 (ACLU MA).
- In 2019, the Boston Police Department spent $627,000 on a “cell site simulator”, and tapped a hidden pot of money that kept the purchase out of the public eye. Requests for interviews with Boston police leaders were declined. State Rep. Jay Livingstone shared, “Police chiefs just have these slush funds they can do whatever they want with,” Livingstone said.
How does this happen?
Police unions serve as a shelter from police accountability, terror, funding and killings. Through propaganda, political advocacy and significant funding, police unions have successfully advocated for resources and protections that can be otherwise shifted to social service programs and community initiatives. “Police unions have emerged as one of the most significant roadblocks to change.” While rates of union membership have dropped by half nationally since the early 1980s, to 10 percent, higher membership rates among police unions give them resources they can spend on campaigns and litigation to block reform (NYT). Despite the recent uprisings sparked by state sponsored violence and death to specifically Black bodies, police budgets and reallocation en masse have not budged.
Police unions are strategic and organized. As former Black Panther and founder of the New Afrikan Independence Party, Khalid Raheem says, police unions have a tremendous amount of power and are protected by the judiciary.
“The union pressured lawmakers to set aside the proposal, which many supported but then never brought to a vote. Around the same time, a lawyer for the union waged a legal fight to limit the ability of the prosecutor’s office to investigate police misconduct. The following year, a leader of the union said Ms. Gardner should be removed “by force or by choice.” (NYT).
Those voted in political offices to serve the people are afraid of police unions. “Politicians tempted to cross police unions have long feared being labeled soft on crime by the unions, or more serious consequences.” (NYT)
We have discussed how deaths like George Floyd's have also put police unions under a microscope. During this, a consensus quickly emerged, asserting that unions protect officers who behave poorly and impede reform that would improve policing and police-community relations. The central idea animating the new consensus is that police-union power has translated into too many officer job protections, enabling even the so-called “few bad officers” to act with impunity. The inability to hold officers accountable poisons public relations and puts American lives at risk. Why would we want to live in an increasingly militarized state, as opposed to addressing the needs of the people that will in effect reduce crime? Rolling back protections enshrined in union contracts and state statutes, many now argue, will help to hold police accountable, de-incentivise corruption, reduce draconian policing practices against Black people and change the way we understand policing in this country.
Until then, we must contend with the reality of the racialized criminal justice power dynamic. As it is today, Black bodies are treated with an anti-relation to humanity. The standards for their death is significantly lower than their white or even non-Black POC counterparts. If in the rare case an officer is ever made to face a grand-jury, the idea of “reasonable person” is almost always in favor of the notion that a police officer has made the “right” decision in using armed force. This relies on the idea that “the perceptions of white people are the standard in which justice is measured.” Police are agents for white, rich, ruling class. They are trained in a tradition of preservation of self over community, a pillar of capitalism and an antithesis to the practices of mutual aid that are at the center of BLM Boston’s mission.
Until we reckon with the continued and practiced anti-Black racism in our court systems, as well as over-policing and the deathly limits of the reasonable person standard, Black people will continue to face racism and bias from policing, prosecutors, judges and jurors that are encouraged to engage with racially charged perspectives and values. And this will continue to be systematized for financial gain. The power is ours to better understand how oppression functions, come together and organize for the world we deserve.