Joe Biden announced his proposal to increase funding for police as opposed to defunding police departments. Biden’s fiscal year 2022 budget has an increase of more than double the FY2021 budget for law enforcement — $388 million.
Some argue this is a middle finger to Black people, the constituency largely responsible for securing Biden’s election win. I tend to agree. But polling data push back on that argument, showing that Black people are against defunding the police. According to a 2021 Economist-YouGov poll, a majority of Black respondents are against defunding police departments and oppose abolishing police departments altogether.
Local polling data backs that up.
A 2021 Minneapolis poll found 75 percent of Black respondents said that the city shouldn’t reduce its police force. In a 2021 Detroit Free Press/USA Today poll, white residents opposed defunding the police but Black residents rejected it even more decisively.
A few things are at play, the first being de facto segregation tactics, which are systemically racist, not limited to zoning ordinances and redlining. An argument exists that Black people are just violent, however, the data overwhelming prove that’s just untrue. Nevertheless, Black people in certain neighborhoods are concerned about crime—again, facilitated by systemic racism.
Moderates and conservatives alike take advantage of this.
The sample size of these polls is also at play. Although the Economist-YouGov was a national poll, there were only 1500 respondents. The Minneapolis poll had only 800 respondents out of a population of 429,954 people and the Detroit poll only had 500 respondents out of a population of 713,777 people.
Therefore, legitimate questions can be raised concerning whether the sentiment of Black people on this issue was captured best by these polls. But also, some information within such polls is highlighted and other information isn’t discussed.
For example, a 2021 Axios-Ipsos poll found that while 52 percent of Black respondents were opposed to the “defund the police” movement, 78 percent of Black respondents supported diverting some police budget to community policing and social services.
We often hear the former, rarely the latter.
But diverting some of the police budgets to social services is defunding the police, even if money remains in department hands for community policing efforts. However, the phrase was co-opted to shift attention away from reform to maintain the status quo.
For the record, that same Axios poll revealed that three out of four Black people responded that they disagreed with the statement, “America is not a racist country,” but it’s unlikely that President Biden will cite that response in any speech about policing.
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The reality is that the president is comfortable saying what he said because the polls say that Black people don’t want to defund the police. But polls don’t tell the whole truth and neither has America with respect to the condition they’ve put Black people in.
The truth is that Black people want police to treat them like human beings, with respect and dignity, and not shoot them down, let alone over-police them. Black folks want white supremacists rooted out of police departments and desire for police to be held accountable when they do harm Black people, as they would if they were to harm white people.
The hard truth is Congress won’t pass police reform, neither will they end the filibuster to pass voting reform for Black people to elect candidates who’ll do what Congress and Joe Biden only give lip service to — holding police accountable for harming Black folks.
The uncomfortable truth… sadly, is that many Black folks believe pulling a knife out of one’s back by three inches is progress.
Rann Miller is the director of anti-bias and DEI initiatives as well as a high school social studies teacher for a school district located in Southern New Jersey. He’s also a freelance writer and founder of the Urban Education Mixtape, supporting urban educators and parents of students in urban schools. You can follow him on Twitter @UrbanEdDJ .
Photo: President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden speak to Jimmy Holderfield, National Secretary of the Fraternal Order of Police, second from left, and James Smallwood, National Treasurer of the National Fraternal Order of Police, left, as they are to place flowers on a wreath during a ceremony honoring fallen law enforcement officers at the 40th annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Oct. 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
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