The Murder of Walter Scott, Abolition, And Alternatives to “Carceral” Reform

Another blatant murder of a Black man, Walter Scott, by the police state. The narrative hasn’t changed, the police murder a Black man, Mr. Scott, and then cover it up with all the power of the state, the murderous cop plants a taser next to the victim, to bolster the cop’s story that the cop was “fearing for his life.” and the state’s  initial response was that this shooting was justified.This would have remained the dominant narrative except for a video. A video that clearly showed the victim, fleeing, weaponless, and being shot in the back. There has already been a lot of thoughtful, rageful, and mournful pieces written about the lies told by and about our police state and our criminal “justice system.” I have been unsure what, if anything, I have to add to the discussion. However, I have been thinking about an additional angle – feminism, social justice movements, and the prision industrial complex. The Marshall Report, just released a piece about child support and the number of men who fear the police because of warrants for failure to pay. It is here: The fathers’ failure to pay child support is a major problem for single moms and has been claimed as an issue by conservatives and feminists alike. This is a real problem – divorce being a major catalyst for driving mothers into poverty. However, arresting fathers and putting them into jail for failure or inability to pay child-support is nonsensical, no one can pay anything while in jail. So why would advocates fight for legal mechanisms like arrests for failure to pay child-support? I think that questions affords us a place for self-reflection on the legal reforms that social movements fight for. Movements led by an upper/middle class white(mostly) professionalized class usually equals “reforms” that contribute to the strength of the police state and expansion of the prison industrial complex. When white feminists advocate for these solutions, radical, women of color, groups like INCITE! refer to it as “carceral” feminism. Victoria Law in the left magazine, The Jacobin, defines it as,”… an approach that sees increased policing, prosecution, and imprisonment as the primary solution to violence against women.”  Kimberle Crenshaw, in her groundbreaking piece, Mapping the Margins, Intersectionality, Identity Politics and Violence Against Women of Color, first pointed out the obvious in her critique of Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA) – that solutions that rely on the state to stop violence will INCREASE violence against working class women of color and non-citizens. And outcomes for interaction with police will be different for a white middle-class woman versus a poor Black-woman. Obvious – if anyone had actually paid attention the experiences of Black women and the US state. The same state that previously legalized the bondage, commodification, and rape of Black enslaved women could hardly be trusted to stop violence against Black women. To understand our history, is to understand that the law, as an outgrowth of the capitalist state, has always regulated Black bodies and Black labor in order to maximize white, capital, profit. So when we call for the state to ensure that men pay child support through disciplinary tactics like probation and incarceration, we are just enabling the capitalist, racist state to continue to regulate/enslave Black and Brown bodies. When we call for mandatory arrests of accused wife abusers, we are doing the same. When we when demand hate crime legislation we are doing the same. When we call for the end to human trafficking through the demand of more prosecutions, we are again empowering the state to continue to arrest more Black and Brown people. That is just how it works. Money that pours into the our criminal incarceration system only goes to building a more sophisticated police state and creation of more state sponsored violence. It will never end violence. This is why I am an abolitionist. This is why you should be one too. There are alternatives to calls for reform that don’t strengthen the police state. Instead of calling for the arrest of fathers who can’t or won’t pay child-support, we can join in coalitions calling for full-employment, fair jobs, $15 and a union. Instead of calling for the independent review boards of the police, diversity in the police, or more community policing, we can call for reparations and the dismantling of the police force. Instead of calling for Hate crime legislation, we need to reduce the thousands of acts that are now called felonies in our criminal incarceration system. Instead of calling for the end to deportations for some of us but an increase in deportation for the “criminal”, we could say that they/we are all our family and demand full legalization and the end of deportation and detention for all of us. As I am writing this, I see more articles calling for the same. Like this article by Mychal Smith of the Nation, Abolition. Reparations. Full Social and Economic Equality. If you want to read more: read Michelle Alexander’s book, the New Jim Crow, Angela Davis’ book, Are Prisons Obsolete, and INCITE’s website, and many more sources, that I don’t know yet!

It goes beyond teaching our sons not to rape…..

It’s more thateachmennottorapen teaching men/boys not to rape. We need to teach our boys not to hate women and all things feminine. I have noticed, as a mom of twins – a boy and a girl – that boys are taught at a very young age to disdain girls, to disdain anything remotely feminine. I have heard boys as young as 4 declare – “I hate girl things, girls can’t do that, I only want to play with boys.” When my son says that – I remind him that I am a woman too and he loves and needs me, I remind him that his very smart teacher is a woman, and his cool cousin is young woman, and so he absolutely must show respect for femaleness.

What do other parents who are raising young boys say/do?

I have noticed that other mothers seem to accept their son’s disdain of all things feminine. As a mom, once said to me, my son hates all “girly” things, with no sense of being disturbed. Maybe it is because that mom things that her son just hates pink and princess things and maybe she is unconsciously, relieved because her son is fitting into a gender norm by his declaration. But I think that when a boy declares a hatred of “girly things” he is also aligning himself against women, against the feminine. And just to be clear – by feminine, I don’t mean just what commercial America says is feminine – pink and princesses, because young children aren’t so nuanced to see that girls and the feminine are more than pink – they learn to hate all things associated with girls.

 Boys do this because it is the “cool” thing to do; they get lots of signals from our culture that the feminine is frivolous, silly and something to distance themselves from. They form their identities as boys in opposition to girls and women. All of us in our childrens’ lives have a responsibility to actively find ways to discuss misogyny in our culture so that we don’t perpetuate and recreate the rape culture that we were brought up in. If we don’t talk about socially constructed gender roles, then they never acquire the vocabulary of why they feel the need to surround themselves with a force field of false “maleness.” We miss a real chance to help our boys become better/kinder humans for the world and for themselves. They just learn the need to prove that they are “real boys” and they do it through hating of women. They learn girls and women, are objects to be acted on, rather than as allies in our joined humanity.

So it goes beyond teaching our boys not to rape. As this awesome blog says ( It’s about teaching them that women are people. And NO person should be raped. We need to give our sons the responsibility and the challenge to join us in our share humanity to struggle against misogyny. Their own world, their vision will also be transformed so that they can define themselves not in narrow terms of some “macho” sense of maleness but a vastly expanded vision where all of our aspects of our humanity can thrive and flourish.