Boston University professor touts theory that police ‘are inherently harmful’


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Ibram X. Kendi, a Boston University professor and proponent of critical race theory, touted the theory that “police are inherently harmful” during a panel this weekend on abolishing race. police in the United States.

Kendi, director and founder of BU’s Center for Antiracist Research, mediated the panel featuring Elizabeth Hinton, associate professor of history at Yale University, and “Becoming Abolitionists” author Derecka Purnell during the BU’s National Antiracist Book Festival Saturday.


“I think one of the main points that you’ve just demonstrated in so many different ways is: the theory that policing can reduce harm or create safety is fundamentally wrong, because policing is inherently harmful,” said Kendi to Purnell during the discussion, referring to her book.

Ibram X. Kendi has touted the theory that “the police are inherently harmful”.
(Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

“But it’s so ingrained in us that this police are protective,” he continued. “And you’ve demonstrated that even the term police violence, we don’t even need to use the term violence anymore because the police are inherently, in a way, violent. Do you think that’s the major problem, that people have to imagine a world in which we are able to abolish the police and create different kinds of ways to reduce harm, that people still can’t get around the fact that the police are harmful?”

Purnell said people’s fears about the potential abolition of law enforcement are unfounded because of the damage done by law enforcement itself.

“When I hear people talk about the fear of, ‘Well, if we abolish the police, or if we defund the police, who’s going to protect everybody from rapists?’ Purnell argued. “When the police routinely assault people every day. Every day. And we take that as part of our job.”

“The police offer a lot of protection,” she said. “They protect borders, they protect private property, they protect capitalism, they protect people who have power. Every white supremacist march I’ve counter-protested, the police were there facing us, not the white supremacists. . And so I know exactly what the police are protecting.”

“Ask, what are the police doing? she continued. “Are they the best we can do to prevent and respond to damage? And I would say that’s a resounding “no”. It’s not the best we can do. And we can also look to brown people, refugees, black people, the working class and the exploited around the world to give us an answer.

Protesters hold a sign saying "Defund the police" during a protest over the death of black man Daniel Prude after police put a balaclava on his head during an arrest on March 23, in Rochester, New York, United States, on March 6 September 2020.

Demonstrators hold a sign that reads ‘Defund the police’ during a protest against the death of black man Daniel Prude after police put a balaclava on his head during an arrest on March 23, in Rochester, New York, USA, September 6. 2020.
(REUTERS/Brendan McDermid)

Hinton argued that policing in the United States “obviously hasn’t worked” and that a “preventive approach” is needed.

“In communities of color, in low-income communities, the purpose and function of the police is surveillance and social control and identifying people who need to be removed,” she said. “The purpose and function of policing in middle-class communities is to protect property. This is another guideline that stems from slavery.”

“We have to try something totally new,” she continued. “And I think we need to think about a strong definition of public safety that involves people having adequate access to health care, with every person in this country having access to nutritious food. To me, that’s safety .Providing people with educational opportunities – which leads to security and a vibrant democracy.”

Black Lives Matter sign (iStock)

Black Lives Matter sign (iStock)


Purnell said it was their job as advocates to shine a light on “how the police offer more protection to systems of oppression than they do to systems of justice.”

“What’s exciting, I think, about abolition is that there are a lot of different policy changes that we can have to increase agency for people,” she said. “So it ranges from universal basic income to universal childcare to canceling student debt. There are so many tangible, concrete ways to improve the lives of so many people.”

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