The United States is a project of both anti-Blackness and racial-colonial power. From the founding of this white supremacist settler-colonial state, Black people have endured 250 years of slavery, ninety years of Jim Crow, sixty years of “separate but equal” legal doctrine, and thirty-five years of explicitly anti-Black housing laws among other insidious forms of de jure and de facto racial discrimination. The racial capitalist state and its policing functionaries employ state violence as a means of containing and controlling the working-class, especially racialized and colonized domestic peripheries. The late political prisoner and revolutionary ancestor George Jackson (1971, p. 99) writes the following:
The purpose of the chief repressive institutions within the totalitarian capitalist state is clearly to discourage and prohibit certain activity, and the prohibitions are aimed at very distinctly defined sectors of the class- and race-sensitized society. The ultimate expression of law is not order—it’s prison. There are hundreds upon hundreds of prisons, thousands upon thousands of laws, yet there is no social order, no social peace. …Bourgeois law protects property relations and not social relationships.
The United States is a punitive carceral state with 25 percent of the world’s population behind bars despite comprising only 5 percent of the world’s population (Collier, 2014, p. 56; Hayes, 2017, p. 17). The American criminal so-called “justice” system holds almost 2.3 million people in 1,833 state prisons, 110 federal prisons, 1,772 juvenile prisons, 3,134 local jails, 218 immigration detention facilities, and 80 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, civil commitment centers, state psychiatric hospitals, and prisons in the U.S. settler-colonies (Sawyer & Wagner, 2020). U.S. incarceration is disproportionately racialized, targeting Black and brown people who represent 60 percent of the incarcerated (Marable, 2015). If Black and Latino people were incarcerated at the same rate as whites, their imprisoned and jailed populations would decline by almost 40 percent (NAACP, 2019). The problems are not rooted in crime but policing itself which constructs, (re)produces, and institutes white supremacy and anti-Blackness through racial capitalism. The police have been waging asymmetric domestic warfare on Black people, encircling, and capturing their prospects for self-determination and self-actualization. From the Greensboro Massacre of 1979 to the murder of Marcus Deon Smith of 2018 to the murder of George Floyd in 2020, the only solution for Black liberation is abolishing the police and freeing what is essentially a semi-colony of peripheral peoples.
This essay has five sections. This first section discusses the problems of policing. The second section explains the history of U.S. policing and its development. The third section lays out the failure of liberal reforms to grapple with policing as an institution. The fourth section argues the case for police abolition. The last section concludes.