Radical Abolition

This week I have been thinking about the relationship between state security protects and “white democracy” (Olson, 2011), particularly as I consider the purpose of a state security project like Secure Communities. I am thinking through how state security projects may relate to another piece I am working on where I argue that Arizona’s “attrition through enforcement” strategy – best exemplified by SB 1070 – is an example of ethnic cleansing within a democracy.  The purpose of attrition through enforcement according to our representative Jeff Flake (R – AZ) is to produce untenable lives for migrants; lives that are characterized by such pervasive vulnerabilities that migrants “voluntarily” leave the state. In similar ways, both tactics (attrition through enforcement and Secure Communities) result in the dispersal of migrant bodies through arrest, detention, deportation, or forced out-migration. Both tactics also rely on certain assumptions about what makes people secure and who deserves the protection of the state. In this case, migrants from the global South are targeted for premature death by state security projects.

The literature on “Radical Abolition” (Gilmore, 2011) and Black Radical Thought suggests a different way – one oriented toward creating authentically democratic institutions by abolishing white democracy and the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC).  Abolishing the PIC challenges us to “think politics without security” by building movements “that not only end violence, but that create a society based on radical freedom, mutual accountability, and passionate reciprocity. In this society, safety and security are…based on a collective commitment to guaranteeing the survival and care of all peoples” (Critical Resistance-INCITE Statement on Gender Violence and the Prison Industrial Complex, 2006). Radical Abolition demands a critique of state security projects and provides critical imaginings of a different future, where our conditions of possibility are not limited by white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, and colonization.


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