I imagine white people living in middle-class and wealthy neighborhoods are concerned by the prospect of a reduced police force or the slogan “defund the police.”

I urge them to consider what actually makes their community safe.

At a foundational level their community is safe because in general they and their neighbors have stable housing, have good-enough jobs, can afford health care, and have faith that the local public school will do a reasonable job of preparing their children for the same kind of safe life they have enjoyed.

My family, school and neighbors certainly did. There are, of course, exceptions but on the whole, caring neighbors and families along with ample opportunities to succeed are what make communities safe, not an active police presence.

My experience supports this. Chances are theirs does too. Decades of research support this. Common sense supports this.

My aunt put it well when she responded to a video of her 4-year-old grandson telling stories about the things he and his mom like to do. My aunt said, “I wish all our life stories were this simple.”

That is what protestors want. That is what any caring human being should want. That ability to raise children who know and love their parents is something that has been actively and systematically denied from Black and Brown Americans for the past 400 years. Something that continues to be kept from them to this day: George Floyd has a 4-year-old daughter whose life story could never have been and will never be as simple as it should.

The movement to defund the police is a movement to re-allocate money from police departments to programs that work to create affordable housing, ensure that all people have access to health care, and to adequately fund our public schools.

It is a movement to make sure that the most fitting professional responds to each 911 call. In short it is a movement to build the very same social structures that make your neighborhood safe in communities that have been denied those structures for the entirety of American history.

Sam Huston

Walla Walla