We all changed during 2020. So did the title of my book.
When my book went to press at the end of 2019—presenting a new vision for safety for America, one based in care rather than fear—I was responding to 2019 levels of suffering and hatred and fear, and to a 250-year legacy of unsafe circumstances for all but a few in this country. That book, titled We Keep Us Safe, came out in February 2020.
I could never have anticipated how much 2020 would further our lack of safety.
If there were any remaining doubts that systematic disinvestment has made Black and Brown people much more vulnerable in America, 2020 would prove it, with our COVID deaths twice as high, and with the literal sacrifice demanded of frontline workers.
If there were any remaining doubts that police are explicitly targeting and harming Black people, 2020 would prove that too.
If there were any remaining doubts that the greatest perpetrators of harm are not being held accountable for their actions, whether or not the criminal court system is involved, 2020 clinched it.
The new title of the paperback edition of my book reflects this moment in time: Defund Fear: Safety without Policing, Prisons, and Punishment.
But Defund Fear doesn’t just speak to what happened in 2020— it’s a mandate for the new administration. We have failed to create a country that keeps us safe. How did we get here and how do we move forward together?
The dangers we face today are undeniably the result of choices made over decades by politicians from both sides of the aisle and the interests who fund them. President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris included. Their choices maintained the “Framework of Fear” that scapegoats black, indigenous and other people of color while obscuring the real harms being done by greedy corporations, by institutions and a culture of white supremacy and patriarchy, by a climate thrown out of whack by unaccountable resource use. Their choices resulted in a massive shift away from a social safety net and toward a punishment dragnet, resulting in entire families and communities being caught in cycles of poverty, violence and incarceration.
Before the pandemic, seven hundred Americans died from poverty each day. Before George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, a black person was killed by police or vigilante violence every 28 hours. Before 2020, we spent 53 cents of every federal dollar on the military. The lion’s share of city and municipal budgets went to police departments. The very things that accelerated the suffering and death of black and brown people—policing and prisons—were recession proof. Meanwhile, after every recession since 1980, healthcare, education, housing, and meaningful employment—the things that affirmed life for all people, black, white, and brown—were slashed and burned.
We cannot succumb to complacency with a new administration. Defund Fear is a call to actively create the conditions that make safety and security possible.
Defund Fear is available for pre-order now, and will be out in bookstores starting February 2, 2021. Twelve days after the Inauguration. Pre-orders really help the book succeed and are greatly appreciated. Visit bit.ly/3pOcRX4