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BLM, Defund the Police, Deviance, and Crime

By Olivia du Pont

Disclaimer: I am a white individual speaking on topics that do not directly affect me. It is neither my individual nor communal experience of systemic racism that has led me to fight for Black Lives Matter and the Defund the Police movement. I come from white (and other forms) of privilege, and am attempting to educate myself and others on why, as an ally, I believe that a crucial aspect of supporting the BIPOC community is defunding the police and the current system that maintains our nation’s violently racialized system of policing.

When I first encountered the term deviance in an academic context, I was admittedly shocked to learn that deviance does not equate to crime. The term “deviance” often has a negative connotation in mainstream dialogues, but in reality, anything that strays from cultural or societal norms are deviant. An important note to make here is that all ideas or what is considered acceptable and unacceptable to a general audience is also a socially defined phenomena—thus we define others by standards those before us have used to defined themselves. Women having sex before marriage? Deviant. Gay partnership? Deviant. Forgetting to brush your teeth before bed? Deviant.

But am I a criminal for having sex before marriage? No, but I am deviant. Now, my next question for you is: am I a bad person for forgetting to brush my teeth two nights ago? I sure hope not. Deviance does not equate to crime, and neither crime nor deviance equates to evil. The police exist, in theory, to police those deviant acts which have been defined as criminal. The goal of police is to provide social control in their designated communities. Reduce crime, punish offenders, “keep the streets safe”. But what about the inner layers of the system? What happens when people slowly begin to realize that those maintaining social control, those who are in power, are actually the ones deeply harming a portion of society’s population?

As we have witnessed, with time comes to light more and more case examples of how such policing has prosecuted instead of protected, harmed instead of helped, and such unjust actions inevitably give birth to social movements. More attention is given to those ‘deviants’ who reject the idea of business as usual, and who reject such injustices committed at the hands of those with power and capital. Meanwhile, the rest of society frowns upon those who speak out. I would think that upon hearing that yet another black person has been killed by the police anyone would want to speak out, but I suppose there are those blinded by their lack of victimization and therefore by their privilege. The threat to the immense privilege offered to those who benefit directly by the legacy of white supremacy is so feared, that the simple statement “Black Lives Matter” has been transformed by mainstream media into an inherently political and revolutionary one. When the simple recognition of the worthiness of Black lives becomes deviant, there is clearly a problem.

A white man carrying an open beer may be yelling in the streets with a painted face after their favorite sports team has won the championship, and the police look the other way. Maybe they are thinking, “no harm done, it’s only fun and games.” This white man is not straying from societal norms, and therefore is not deviant. Yet two weeks later a black man may be standing on the sidewalk, speaking out loud, and holding a sign, and NOT carrying an open container of alcohol, maybe even with a few other black men, yet they are gassed, or maybe even worse, arrested for public disruption of the peace.

The example shared through news sources only weeks ago illustrates this as well; Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17 year old white boy, walked past police officers openly carrying an assault rifle after murdering two and injuring one protester. That same week, Jacob Blake, a Black man walking back to his car with his children was shot in the back seven times and remains paralyzed. The simple fact is clear: it is often no more than ones skin color that determines deviance.

I can understand why it may be alarming to have someone marching and speaking loudly walking down the street, especially when there’s multiple people doing so. As someone who doesn’t like large crowds I understand why one would become overwhelmed. Or maybe it makes you uncomfortable to know people are staring at you and potentially judging your deviant behavior. But what if you witnessed first degree murder, and then found out that nothing was going to be done about it? What if it was your son who was murdered? Your mother? I think you would be angry too.

So why are we continuing to heavily fund a system in the name of maintaining social control?

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