Hey everyone! Esrea Perez-Bill (she/her and they/them) and Dylan Felt (she/her and they/them) here from the EDIT Program to talk LGBTQ+ resistance, abolition of the carceral and police state, and evaluation. As calls to #DefundThePolice have gained national attention, lots of folks are being newly introduced to abolition, and many may be feeling confused, afraid, or even frustrated by these calls.
Lesson to Learn: Abolition is nothing to be afraid of!
It’s important to remember that abolition isn’t just about the absence of police and prisons, it’s about the systems of care, support, and health that we build in their place. There is a wealth of research available on how police violence harms health, or how the prison system disproportionately impacts poor, Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and LGBTQ+ communities, but identifying these dynamics is only a first step. A philosophy of abolition pushes us not only to reject and dismantle harmful systems, but to build in their place a loving, healthy, supportive world.
LGBTQ+ communities of color have long been at the forefront of re-imagining the world in a more caring image. Just look to Black LGBTQ+ ballroom culture, which created a structure of chosen family for LGBTQ+ children who had been kicked out of their homes at the height of the AIDS crisis, fostering health and community care by moving beyond a traditional, western family structure. In ballroom, community leadership revolutionized the potential for growth and wellbeing among some of the most marginalized members of society by shrugging off a harmful system and instituting a better one in its place. In fact, abolition and the leadership of LGBTQ+ communities of color have always gone hand in hand. As Dr. Angela Davis, a leading voice in abolitionist theory and a Black lesbian herself, says:
“… the trans community … has taught us how to challenge that which is totally accepted as normal. If it is possible to challenge the gender binary, then we can certainly effectively resist prisons and police.”
Hot Tip: As evaluators, we ask tough questions, we think critically about complex problems, and we use available evidence to find creative solutions that benefit those we serve. We argue that the evidence is clear: police and prisons create more harm than good, and it’s time to consider: At what point do we stop interpreting – and start abolishing? What can our role as evaluators be in manifesting a better future – one that holds health, justice, and equality as core values?
If you want to learn more about abolition, Black, Queer, and Feminist scholars and activists have been writing about it for years! Here are some of our favorite resources if you’re new to what abolition means:
- Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Davis
- Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complexby various authors
- Black & Pink – a national LGBTQ+ abolitionist organization
- Critical Resistance – a group advocating for and educating on abolition
We invite you all to join us in this conversation.
The American Evaluation Association is celebrating LGBT TIG Week with our colleagues in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Issues Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our LGBT TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.