The other day, I saw a post on Facebook musing on the phrase #BlackLivesMatter. It pointed out that this was a bad choice of phrase, as it invited the “AllLivesMatter” response. What was needed was something more active; the poster suggested #SaveBlackLives . The advantage, claimed the poster, was that this was less susceptable to “SaveAllLives” (for that is clearly not their position). Believing something matters is much weaker than actually wanting to save the lives.
I bring this up because of the current trending #DefundThePolice notion. The vast majority of people do not understand what that means: they believe (as evidenced by Trump’s recent tweets) that it means a desire to eliminate the police departments. But those who know understand that #DefundThePolice means to move away from the notion of militaristic “policing” as practiced today, to a position of community-based public safety. It means not having our police department be the first line of defense against mental illness and poverty based crimes. It means addressing the underlying problems that leads to the crime, and not meeting the symptom (the actual violation of the law) with violence and anger. It means having community-based officers working with, and being part of the community — not being an outside adversarial force.
Our words matter, and #DefundThePolice is misleading. May I suggest instead: #SafetyNotPolicing , or the positive spin: #FundPublicSafety or #FundCommunitySafety . We need to make it clear we want to go beyond “reform” of existing institutions and their cultures, to reformation and creation of new institutions, with new cultures focused on community engagement and safety.