book review: we do this til we free us09 Aug 2021
What are the main ideas?
- you don’t have to be an abolitionist to organize against prisons, policing, surveillance, etc. that matters because being an abolitionist is fucking hard and it’s not necessary to bring yourself into that hardness if you don’t want to take on the task. you can just organize against prisons, police, etc.
- hope is a discipline and a practice (and it doesn’t mean you have to be happy all the time)
- the idea of blameless “perfect victims” makes prisons and policing stronger because (a) it positions villians as absolutely evil and (b) it removes agency from survivors. not being perfect doesn’t mean being at fault. but being seen as perfect does flatten some people who are engaging in their lives as choiceful agents (even if we look at their situations and might be unable to imagine how they are making the choices that they are)
- the state, no matter how much it tries, can never give us the amount of justice that we desire because that’s simply not what it’s set up to do. in the american context, it did come with a deep rooting in well-being for all and so it will never be able to get there because all we have now has been grown from it’s original shaping, reforms included.
- prisons in the united states were initially an option (among others that have since been invisibilized) that was seen as more humane than corporal punishment, which was the norm at the time that (quaker) prisons came about. and originally, there were more white people in them than anyone else. but after the civil war, prisons became a structure that extended slavery, sharecropping, and convict leasing.
- in order to advance abolition, we need a shitton of experimentation. and that includes failures (because experimenting requires making hypothesis, taking risk, and building things that have never or don’t currently exist).
- there is a difference between punishment and consequences. accountability requires consequences; prisons and policing require punishment. ex: a consequence for harm caused by someone who abused a position of power is to not be able to hold that position of power any long. a punishment is that person never being able to hold any positions of power ever again.
- as much as we don’t like to see it, all of us raised in american culture are raised with a belief that punishment for harm/wrong is the pathway back to right relationship. but that is false.
- “everything worthwhile is worth doing with other people.” —
- to mariame, two of the most important units of impact to pay attention to are relationships and harm. transformation, which can happen at all scales, happens at those small units first (and maybe also the easiest?)
If I implemented one idea from this book right now, which one would it be?
get clear about the difference between consequences and punishment. this is super relevant to how i am learning to uncle my nibblings and support their parents, too.
How would I describe the book to a friend?
this book is a gathering of interviews, essays, and conversations that spans ~2015-2021 and is so digestible that i’m giving it to anyone i know who is waking up to #defundthepolice work (and that includes me!). you can easily hop around and the repetition is helpful to make the most important points stick. in this moment where abolition is taking a turn in the spotlight, this book feels like a required read.
reminder: book review structure
words / writing / post-processing
546w / 19min / 5min