Poor & working class survivors for Black lives
We are white women raised in poor and working class families. We are in full solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives call to defund the police and invest in the services that keep communities safe. We live in the US South, Midwest, Appalachia, East and West Coast, and Canada, in cities, small towns and rurally. We are white women who know that police don’t keep us safe. We are survivors of violence calling for the abolition of police. Our solidarity lies with those most targeted and harmed by policing.
We are writing this statement to expose the lie that gets leveraged for white supremacy — that police protect women from violence. They don’t. Police don’t stop violence against women — they are violence against women. They do not prevent sexual and domestic violence, they create and escalate it. The first police in the United States were slave patrols, developed to protect the interests of white elites and the institution of chattel slavery, an institution of rampant sexual violence in which the rape of Black women was incentivized. From strip and cavity searches to the endemic rape of gender-oppressed Black people in police custody, sexual violence is core to the everyday functioning of policing and this has always been so.
We know those in power will use a narrative of “protecting [white] women and children” to justify the need for policing. They do not speak for us, and we refuse to let our survivorship be weaponized by white elites against Black people and exploited to expand and legitimize policing.
We are white survivors of rape, sexual assault, child sexual abuse and intimate partner violence in straight and queer relationships. We know and love white women who have been sexually assaulted and beaten by the police. We saw our mothers get abused by their partners. We have called the police in response to violence, had the police called on our families, and have been coerced into talking to the police. We are white women who have been arrested, who have family members that have survived police violence, whose loved ones are prisoners and correctional officers.
When the police have responded to sexual and domestic violence in our lives, they have buddied up with our abusers, coerced us into giving information that was used against us, and provoked more violence from the people who’ve harmed us. Still, white supremacy and white privilege has shaped every interaction we’ve had with the police.
We and our white family members have walked away from interactions with the police in which Black people are regularly killed, arrested, and imprisoned. When the police were called in moments of mental health crises, they worsened the crises, but they didn’t kill our loved ones, like they do so many Black women in similar conditions, such as Kayla Moore, Charleena Lyles, and Michelle Cusseaux.
As white children surviving violence in our homes, white supremacy reduced the extent to which we were separated from our families by the “child welfare” system that colludes with the police to take Black children, rip Black families apart and cage Black parents. As girls demonstrating normal responses to sexual violence, school cops punished us but they did not push us into the sexual-abuse-to-prison-pipeline that targets and entraps Black girls.
We declare our commitment to abolition feminism and solidarity with gender-oppressed Black people. As white women, we are abolitionists because we feel a moral imperative to abolish the systems that uphold the horrors of white supremacy. We are also abolitionists because we know that the world being built through Black-led abolitionist struggle is one in which our younger selves would have been safer, where our families would have gotten the support we needed to thrive. We are inspired by Black and Native solidarity in the struggles for abolition and decolonization. Black and Native women such as Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, Andrea Ritchie, Faith Spotted Eagle, Madonna Thunder Hawk, Mariame Kaba, the Combahee River Collective and INCITE! Feminists of Color Against Violence paved the way for us to understand this path to our collective liberation.
As Ruth Wilson Gilmore says, “Abolition is about presence, not absence. It’s about building life-affirming institutions.” Abolition is about the presence of health-care, domestic violence services, trauma healing, affordable housing, quality education, jobs, and transformative justice. It’s about shifting culture away from shame and punishment and towards accountability, healing and care. If abolition were realized, our community members would have had more skills to intervene in harmful behavior before such behavior escalated to rape, abuse and assault. We would have gotten the care and protection that all children deserve. Our loved ones would have had access to the education, services and work to live in their full dignity.
Abolition undermines white supremacy and affirms human dignity. Abolition creates a world that prioritizes care and proclaims the worthiness of all. As Rachel Herzing says, “Abolition is an invitation.” We hope you’ll join us.
Are you a white woman survivor for abolishing police? Fill out our form here to get involved with our work and find community.
Take action with us to abolish police, prisons, and the carceral system! Join Showing Up for Racial Justice’s Wednesday weekly hour-long Abolition Action Phone Zaps in August: bit.ly/AbolitionActionZap. Sign up to get involved with SURJ.
*We are a small group of raised poor and working class white women connected via Catalyst Project and as alumni of the Anne Braden Anti-Racist Organizer Training Program. Two months ago, we came together to discuss our shared stake in Black-led abolitionist movement and our role in resisting backlash to the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) organizing to defund the police. Some of us are listed below.
Blyth Barnow, Faith in Public Life
Ashley Funk, individual contributor
Chanelle Gallant, Showing Up For Racial Justice
Staci K. Haines, co-founder of generationFIVE and generative somatics
Liberty Harrington, individual contributor
Beth Howard, Showing Up for Racial Justice
Elisabeth Long, Catalyst Project
Sarah Stockholm, Showing Up For Racial Justice
Rochelle Watson, Catalyst Project