The death of George Floyd set off a wave of protests against police brutality, which have spread far from Minneapolis and continue long after this tragedy. Naturally, these protests prompted calls for reform, aiming to prevent such deaths in the future. Some popular proposals, such as prohibiting chokeholds and creating a federal registry of brutality complaints, are earnest, and even sensible, but extreme measures to “abolish” or “defund” the police have made the most noise in the discourse.
Though it has gained traction in the media and on social networks, the idea of doing away with or defunding the police is broadly unpopular elsewhere. A recent HuffPost/YouGov poll suggests that less than a third of Americans are open to defunding the police. The poll’s breakdown of support across demographics is even more interesting: Less than a third of both black and white respondents support the proposal. These policies don’t appeal to any more than a quarter of people without college degrees. By contrast, the most highly educated are markedly more supportive: 43% of post-graduate degree holders are pro-defunding. Those who are under 30 are the most supportive age group. Out of all the demographics surveyed, self-described liberals are the only group where support of defunding overwhelms opposition. (RELATED: Trump Lashes Out At ‘Defund The Police’ Campaign)
This data paints a vivid picture of a would-be defunder. He or she may well be a college student, but is just as likely to be a well-educated, affluent and “woke” young professional — a denizen of D.C.’s Capitol Hill or Brooklyn’s Williamsburg. Basically, the archetypal up-and-comers who congregate in expensive downtowns and trendy suburbs across this country. Their values are often as cosmopolitan as their lifestyles: They disdain or show disinterest toward marriage and family formation. They have considerably more progressive views than those held by most Americans, such as a steadfast belief that privilege is the main determinant of people’s lots in life, and avante-garde notions about gender and sexuality. Amplifying such beliefs isn’t without its benefits in this milieu: doing so confers a pleasing social status, predicated on a presumption a person is “open-minded,” or more colloquially, “woke.”
An August 2019 piece in the New York Post aptly coined the term “luxury beliefs” to categorize these views. The author observed that luxury beliefs “confer status on the rich at very little cost, while taking a toll on the lower class.” With wealthy elites, for example, the traditional family structure is unnecessary because they can pay for expensive childcare, schooling and domestic help. A breakdown in marriage in working-class communities eliminates streams of income and parents to help with childcare. This phenomenon has particularly deleterious impacts, especially upon communities of color.
Similarly, defunding or abolishing the police is a luxury policy position. Its proponents, fancying themselves intelligentsia, deride policing as irreparably disordered and cultivate a bizarre notion that working-class cops are racist and barbarically violent as a rule. Consequently, they elevate themselves into heroes in their cliques by using their “privilege” to advocate for the destruction of the institution they’ve painted as such a bigoted and irredeemable monster.
They are also the least likely to feel the brunt of the breakdown of public order that defunding or eliminating the police would cause. Their luxury apartments and college campuses would certainly invest in more surveillance and security to keep them and their property safe. People living in public housing projects, however, will have no such recourse. The working-class urban family will be left to their own devices. Since many cities have strict laws regulating firearms, the poor would often be left utterly defenseless in the wake of department cutbacks. (RELATED: The Violent End of Law and Order)
Similarly, the woke elites who tend to work in polished business districts have building security. Inner-city shopkeepers, on the other hand, will be left without a resource to apprehend robbers when the publicly funded police department is trimmed down to bare bones. Working-class police families will lose breadwinners and plunge into destitution when scores of police officers in a given city are laid off. “Enlightened” defunders won’t feel that kind of pain, either.
The self-righteous demands of an out-of-touch activist elite should not dictate policy on policing. But unfortunately, in Minneapolis, they already have. Excessive use of force by police can be reduced without making urban families and small businesses sitting ducks at the mercy of unrestrained criminals. Moving forward, more practical reforms which are in the interest of working-class Americans should hold center stage in our much-needed national conversation about policing, instead of luxury beliefs.
Leo Thuman is from Baltimore, Maryland. He is studying Political Science at Case Western Reserve University. Find him on Twitter @leo_thuman
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