Former NFL player Colin Kaepernick called for the abolition of police and prison systems in a new essay, abandoning his former demands for reform as ineffective and incapable of solving the issues of police brutality and high incarceration rates in the U.S.
The essay is part of a new series called “Abolition for the People” which is created through a partnership with Kaepernick Publishing and “LEVEL”, a publication by Medium that concentrates on the lives of Black and Brown men. Kaepernick’s essay is the first of 30 that will be published in the next few weeks.
In his piece, “The Demand for Abolition,” Kaepernick argues that institutions of justice should concentrate more on the well-being of people instead of controlling them. He laments the lack of progress and the continued killing of unarmed black people by the police that has occurred since he began protesting in 2015.
Kaepernick said reform was unviable during the ongoing discourse.
“Ultimately, I realized that seeking reform would make me an active participant in reforming, reshaping, and rebranding institutional white supremacy, oppression, and death,” Kaepernick wrote.
“To be clear, the abolition of these institutions is not the absence of accountability but rather the establishment of transformative and restorative processes that are not rooted in punitive practices,” he writes. “By abolishing policing and prisons, not only can we eliminate white supremacist establishments, but we can create space for budgets to be reinvested directly into communities to address mental health needs, homelessness and houselessness, access to education, and job creation as well as community-based methods of accountability.”
Police reform and spending have become a central issue in a year filled with protests against police brutality amid a renewed Black Lives Matter movement. In Minneapolis, where George Floyd was killed, the city council vowed to “dismantle” the police department and set up a “transformative new model of public safety” in its place.
Kaepernick first made national news when he kneeled during the national anthem in 2015 to protest police brutality against Black people in the U.S. At the time he was a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, though he has gone unsigned since 2015. His silent protest began a nationwide trend of players kneeling during the national anthem. These acts of protest have become highly divisive with many calling for players to be kept from playing if they protest. The NFL initially required players to stand or remain in the locker room, but Commissioner Roger Goodell has since said the league was wrong to oppose players’ peaceful protests.