During a recent panel about abolishing police, Boston University professor Ibram X. Kendi shared his theory that “police inherently are harmful”.
Kendi, founder of BU’s Center for Antiracist Research, was on the panel with Elizabeth Hinton, an associate professor of history at Yale University, and “Becoming Abolitionists” author Derecka Purnell during the university’s National Antiracist Book Festival on Saturday.
“I think one of the overarching points that you just demonstrated in so many different ways is: The theory that police can reduce harm or create safety is fundamentally flawed, because the police inherently are harmful,” Kendi said to Purnell.
“But it’s so ingrained in us that that police is protective,” he added. “And you demonstrated that even the term police violence, we now don’t even have to use the term violence because the police are inherently, sort of, violent”.
When asked about the potential abolishment of law enforcement, Purnell said “When I hear people talk about the fear of, ‘Well, if we abolish the police, or if we defund the police, who’s going to protect all of the people from rapists?'”
“When police regularly sexually assault people every single day. Every single day. And we take that just as a part of being in the job,” she added.
Hinton argued that policing in the U.S. “clearly hasn’t worked” and that a “preventative approach” is needed.
“We need to try something totally new,” Hinton continued. “And I think we need to think about a robust definition of public safety and security that involves people having adequate access to health care, every single person in this country having access to nutritious food. To me, that’s safety”.
Purnell claimed that, as advocates, it is their job to bring attention to “how police provide more protection to systems of oppression than they do to systems of justice”.