Among the quotes that jumped out at me from Jacob Pierce’s cover story this week was this one from a critic of predictive policing: “Technology’s never really neutral.” From social media companies’ failures to crack down on hate speech to YouTube documentaries spreading false and deadly misinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic, it seems like we are discovering more and more how true that is all the time.
But in this case, the quote refers specifically to whether predictive policing can truly eliminate systemic racial bias in policing (and if you’ve watched Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th, you know just how historically systemic it is). The creators of Santa Cruz’s PredPol have claimed for years that their version of it does. Almost a decade ago, even while the company was getting accolades nationwide, it was the alternative press here that was skeptical, and years later those concerns are finally being taken seriously. Leading the push for the ban on predictive policing was Santa Cruz Mayor Justin Cummings, who explains exactly why in our story, and talks more specifically about Black Lives Matter and the protests in Santa Cruz after the death of George Floyd in a Q&A in our news section.
One of the duties of every newspaper in this time, I think, is to take a look at specific problems with racial bias in the policing of its own community. This week’s cover story takes a thorough look at why Santa Cruz has finally rejected predictive policing, and I urge you to give it a read.
STEVE PALOPOLI | EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Letters to the Editor
Dear Fellow White People
What do you believe to be the greatest active threat to life in this country right now? I know we’ve all been watching an influx of out-of-towners swarm the beaches, we continue to debate and worry about the spread of COVID-19, and there are bottomless rabbit holes of conspiracy theory about everything you could imagine. Coronavirus has brought panic to our doorstep, and a feeling that is new to many of us here, the feeling of real danger.
It must be said however, that any amount of danger we may be feeling here is entirely trivial when compared to other communities in this country, and around the world. This virus continues to claim lives, our day to day existence has been thrust into uncertainty, and even us white people now have had our lives unignorably interrupted by this global pandemic. But, we must understand that as white people, we remain in a privileged place of relative safety.
I assert that the greatest active threats to life in this country right now, remain the same as they have been: racism, white supremacy, and state sanctioned violence.
Right now, demonstrations and uprisings are expanding across the country to demand justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Sean Monterrosa, Erik Salgado, David McAtee, and the ever-growing list of people being murdered by US law enforcement.
We need every single person’s participation. Showing up to a protest is a good first step, but we need to adapt into a strong, well organized, county-wide initiative to bring about substantial systematic change. This cannot be accomplished through a directive of reform, instead we must legitimize and mobilize the call to abolish institutions of oppression. I do not have the capacity to fully explore abolition here, but a great place to start is Alex Vitale’s book, The End of Policing, exploring how and why our criminal justice system needs to end.
The biggest barrier, in my view, stopping white folks from getting involved in the movement is that we often “don’t know where to start”. We start by giving up our comfort and security for the sake of a whole. If we only do what is easy or convenient to us, we are standing in the way of progress. It is our responsibility to educate ourselves on anti-racism and take daily actions to disrupt and abolish these systems of power.
Passively supporting is not enough, we must be active. We must protest, and if we aren’t able to, then support protestors.
If we are going to a demonstration, then we must show up to follow the leadership of local organizers and people of color. That being said, us white people cannot go on expecting black people and people of color to tell us what to do, that is not their responsibility, and they’ve been telling us for dozens of decades.
This is not about us, but we must show up willing to do what must be done to support the cause.
Support the efforts to defund the police, support the people on the front lines of this fight, and if you think you are supporting enough, you aren’t. We can’t let this moment slip past us, let’s make anti-racism more contagious than any virus ever could be.
Gabriel Kittle-Cervine | Santa Cruz