Marc Lamont Hill Wants to Build a Society Without Police & Prisons (Video)
Marc Lamont Hill, one of the pre-eminent scholars and media personalities of his generation, arrived in Ferguson, Missouri one day after the killing of Mike Brown. It was 2014, and the 18-year-old was fatally shot by police and left in the middle of the street for more than four hours, an event that Hill compares to the spectacle of the public lynchings popular throughout American history. It was one Ferguson woman’s comment – that police treated Brown like he “didn’t belong to nobody” – that inspired the title of Hill’s latest book, Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond.
In it, he examines not only the turbulent relationship between law enforcement and communities of color, but also the systemic issues that help to bolster White supremacy; issues like mass incarceration and a lack of quality education, employment, healthcare, and more. The reality is that the State, the Feds, the Man – whichever title is assigned to the hegemonic powers that be – continuously neglect people who are poor, sick, disabled, Black, Brown, or otherwise disenfranchised. But, as Hill outlined in a recent interview with VladTV, there are demonstrable ways in which such a society can be restructured to create a more just way of life, one in which we need not be so dependent on institutions like prisons and the police force.
At the 7:50 mark, Hill is asked to comment on a statement he made in a previous interview which included a comment about his wanting to live in a society without any police at all. “That would be the ideal world for me,” he explains. “You don’t begin with a world without cops. I’m not saying let’s go to the worst neighborhoods in the city and get all the cops to roll out and we live happily ever after. I’m talking about a bigger social imagination.” In order to bring that imagination to life, he says, there are some things which need to be implemented on a societal level before a world without police can be actualized. Arguing that we need to see people as “sites of investment and love” instead of “containment and blame,” Hill says we need to “invest in things that make people less likely to commit crimes.”
Food, clothing, shelter, early literacy, Head Start, getting lead out of the environment, getting carbon emissions out of the environment, creating environmental standards that are safer, creating educational options that are better, creating resources for people who are on the wrong side of American social life, and treating addiction as a medical problem rather than a criminal act are some of the ingredients Hill lists as necessary for a holistic approach to creating a safer, healthier, and fully realized America. Once those elements are introduced, he says, “we don’t need prison in the same way,” and that “we can have an entirely different social arrangement in the long term whereby we police our own communities, whereby we have a different relationship with our own community and to justice, so that we don’t have an occupying force from the outside coming in.”
Hill also addresses snitching, the pathology of “Black on Black” crime, his lack of trust in police, the prison industrial complex, and much more.