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Former Admiral Barack Obama speaks on the date as he attends an Obama Foundation accident in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Dec. 13, 2019.

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Photo: Zahim Mohd/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Dear Barack Obama: 

I accept heard that you will be speaking this atramentous in an online boondocks anteroom on George Floyd’s killing and the affair of badge reform. I’m not in the addiction of autograph to presidents. Our attempt for amends is a adeptness struggle, not artlessly a dialogue. But I’m autograph to you because, clashing our accepted president, you accept at atomic adopted a attitude of reason. And I achievement that our reasonable barter adeptness action advice for others who are attractive to accept contempo events. 

Your antecedent account in acknowledgment to Floyd’s killing appear a axiological confounding of the role of badge in U.S. society. Because of that, I’m alms my thoughts as an drillmaster who sees an burning charge for massive political apprenticeship in the ambience of an atomic insurgence and intersecting oppressions about what you should say next. 

In your May 29 account on Floyd’s death, you amplified the words of 12-year-old Keedron Bryant, who sang a viral song about actuality a atramentous man in America, and of your acquaintance who articular with it. 

Thank you for that. These were not artlessly examples of the agony of racism as they are frequently presented, but additionally an important assay of the chain systems of abuse that we are facing. Bryant’s lyric that African Americans are actuality “hunted as prey,” for example, reminded me of NYPD Lt. Edwin Raymond’s complaint that he “got annoyed of hunting Atramentous and Hispanic people.”

Bryant’s acknowledgment that this is accident “every day,” forth with Raymond’s accusation adjoin the NYPD for discrimination, adverse the abstraction that racial, extrajudicial accompaniment abandon is the barring to the rule.  

For this reason, I begin myself afraid and abashed aback you said that the band-aid should accommodate “the majority of men and women in law administering who booty pride in accomplishing their boxy job, the appropriate way, every day.”

Your apriorism here, as I accept it, is that aback badge admiral accomplish acts of racist violence, they are outliers, accomplishing article added than the job they were assassin to do — that racist abandon is a abandonment from the assignment that badge admiral are paid for and accepted to do.

By presenting things this way during this time, I accept you are aggravating to abstain alienating badge admiral who see themselves and their assignment as a force for good. Their job is absolutely challenging, and I apperceive abounding admiral accept their own assignment that way.

But it is arresting to see you, an acutely affecting African American accessible figure, abnegation to attack in a added serious, historical, and political way with what the job of the badge absolutely is — and how it contributes to our oppression. 

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A added historically abreast and honest assurance with policing will accept to accost a aching but burning reality: The job of the avant-garde badge in America has been to reinforce a racist amusing adjustment aback its ancestry in the 19th century. Regardless of the acceptable intentions of any alone badge officer, the history, bread-and-butter incentives, and adeptness of the badge in every era, in every burghal in the United States, accomplish this clear.  

I accept that there may accept been political affidavit for your abortion to appoint in a added austere way aback you were advancement and acting as president, but you are beneath no such constraints appropriate now. 

I’ve heard you say that you accept in adaptation and redemption. But as Rev. William Barber told a army in Charleston, South Carolina, “Before you accept grace, there charge be acknowledgement.” 

The academy of policing is saturated with the byword “to assure and to serve,” but a added attending at what badge are accomplished and adored for can advice us to accept what the absolute job of badge is. 

Derek Chauvin was accomplishing his job aback he arrested Floyd. You adeptness feel that he didn’t do his job well, but the badge abutment will acceptable disagree with you. (Lt. Bob Kroll, the Minneapolis badge abutment president, has said he is alive to get Chauvin and the three added accursed admiral their jobs back.) It was not the job of the badge to accept why Floyd may accept been application a affected $20 bill; it was to ensure that he would be acquiescent — alike admitting he did not abide arrest.  

It was additionally the job of the badge to ensure the addition of the others who courageously attempted to acumen with Chauvin and save Floyd’s life.

Terrence Floyd attends a acuity area his brother George Floyd was murdered by badge one anniversary ago on June 1, 2020 in Minneapolis.

Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

When bodies hit the streets in outrage, it was the job of the badge to access their neighborhoods in armed trucks, with abundant appropriate gear. This is not a baby allotment of their job. You may be accustomed with the 1997 bill, accurate by your friend, above Vice Admiral Joe Biden, that assisted badge departments about the country in accepting aggressive accessory and armed vehicles. The 1033 affairs helped to address added than $7.4 billion account of balance aggressive accessories to over 8,000 badge agencies beyond the country. 

Even academy districts accept acquired weapons and appropriate gear, such as rifles, continued magazines, automated pistols, armored plating, appropriate vests, SWAT gear, Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, and armament launchers. Weapons such as these are now actuality deployed adjoin citizens in cities beyond the country.

Police admiral are accomplished in calm animus because this is their job. This is why the Minneapolis Badge Administering defied a ban from Mayor Jacob Frey in adjustment to accord its admiral a “warrior training.”

When the badge bankrupt bottomward the aperture of Breonna Taylor’s home in Louisville, Kentucky, to attending for affirmation in a narcotics investigation, they were accomplishing their job. Taylor was an EMT. It was her job to save lives. But it was not the job of the badge to assure her life. The Louisville Metro Badge Administering has responded by adage that the badge admiral did their job: they agape on the aperture several times and appear themselves afore entering Taylor’s home. What happened next, then, cutting 20 circuit in acknowledgment to battery by Taylor’s boyfriend, including the eight bullets that entered her body, killing her while she was sleeping, was artlessly an adverse but all-important accessory accident of a job well-performed. 

Former Glynn County detective Gregory McMichael told badge that he doubtable Ahmaud Arbery was a burglar. Perhaps, aback he alleged his son Travis McMichael to coursing bottomward and annihilate Arbery in the streets of Georgia, he acquainted so angrily empowered to do so because he saw it as a assiduity of his job.

Such examples of badge abandon are generally presented as anomalies, but they aloof blemish the apparent of a abundant added picture. An honest battle with the abstracts destroys any allegory of nonoppressive accustomed policing. A contempo Rutgers University abstraction begin that actuality dead by badge is a arch account of afterlife in adolescent men.

Statements like yours, about a boxy but amiable accustomed policing meant to assure accessible citizens, are acutely ahistorical. Your comments debris to accede a few things that happened beneath your administration.

In the the 23 canicule amid July 17, the date that Eric Garner was killed, and August 9, 2014 — as the Atramentous Lives Matter movement was unfolding, badge beyond the country dead 66 people, according to the Mapping Badge Abandon database . 

It was your Justice Department task force that begin that Ferguson’s borough cloister “primarily uses its administrative ascendancy as the agency to bulldoze the acquittal of fines and fees that beforehand the City’s banking interests” in a way that abandoned the Constitution. In a burghal of 21,000, 16,000 bodies had outstanding arrest warrants, acceptation that they are actively capital by the police. This has amazing implications for accustomed policing.

In her book “Punishment Without Crime,” law assistant Alexandra Natapoff describes a anatomy that Baltimore badge use to almanac arrest arrests. It has a bare amplitude for the name of the arrestee, but chase and gender are already abounding in as “Black Male.”

Modern badge departments were not founded to assure citizens. They were founded to bottle and accomplish amusing adjustment aural backbreaking amusing hierarchy.

Boston founded what is frequently referred to as the aboriginal U.S. badge administering in 1838 — a year aback bullwork was still acknowledged in ample genitalia of the country. But this starting point ignores the actuality that, in the South, there were already institutions employing hundreds of bodies to surveil, catch, and abuse apprenticed atramentous people. 

Police departments abide to carbon history. The Minneapolis Badge Department’s website claims that in antecedent eras, it was complex in aggressive activity disputes. This condoning and ambiguous accent conceals the actuality that Minneapolis badge entered struggles amid workers angry for their rights on the ancillary of the employers. In 1934, for example, badge admiral attempt at arresting abutment workers, best of them in the back, and dead two, as MinnPost reported. Added such accommodation about the Minneapolis Badge Department’s adverse history are included in a “People’s History of the MPD,“ released by an activist affiliation alleged the MPD150.

Because the actual almanac of badge abandon is so conclusive, the alone way proponents of policing can adverse this history is by pointing out that some badge admiral are nice and occasionally do nice things. 

Mr. President, if you were cerebration of accomplishing this, I’d like to save you the trouble.

Despite my own acerbity about accepted events, I can accede that some alone badge admiral are nice and well-meaning. But there are abounding nice bodies in absurd organizations. The niceness of alone badge officers, or their adeptness to booty a knee, ball at cookouts, or fist-bump protesters, does not allege to the amount action of their job. Badge are paid for their accommodation to abolish bone and accomplish violence. 

Those who try to assignment adjoin this arrangement generally charge accident their jobs to do so. For example, the NYPD 12 who sued the New York Badge Administering to end the use of ancestral quotas, were agitation a circadian apprehension of their jobs.

What is acute to agenda is that in adjustment to abate their accord in racist accompaniment violence, these admiral did not get aback to accustomed policing. Instead, to become a allotment of the band-aid these admiral apparent absolutely what makes the accustomed policing of a badge force with 36,000 admiral an backbreaking practice.  

While enactment Democrats, including your administration, abide to altercate that badge ameliorate is the band-aid adjoin all actual and accepted evidence, a added astute band-aid has emerged from organizers about the country: defunding the badge and advance in association programs that absolutely abate harm. 

In the deathwatch of George Floyd’s killing, groups like Atramentous Visions Collective and Reclaim the Block accept arrive Minneapolis Burghal Board associates to assurance assimilate a pledge. 

Here are its demands:

In concert with these recommendations, the University of Minnesota has already bound its acknowledged relationships with the Minnesota Badge Department. On Tuesday, Minnesota Accessible Schools voted to abolish its arrangement with the badge department. Actuality in Philadelphia, area I live, groups like Movement Alliance Project accept helped citizens flood the inboxes of burghal board associates ambitious that they adios a $14 actor advance into policing that robs funds of amusing and cultural programs. In Los Angeles, over 1,000 bloom affliction workers appear a account abnegation the LAPD account because of its advance in the LAPD over capital bloom and amusing programs. 

The analytic and evidence-based appeal of defunding the badge acknowledges that not every amusing academy can be adapted to serve the public, abnormally those that were conceived absolutely for the adverse reason. 

President Obama, you accept consistently played an important role as educator-in-chief. I allure you to accompany us in alms a added actual and data-informed angle on the botheration of policing and the accessible approaching that awaits us.

In the spirit of acumen and justice, 

Chenjerai Kumanyika

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