“Prison abolition is not simply an end goal but also an everyday practice. Being an abolitionist is about changing the ways we interact with others on an ongoing basis and changing harmful patterns in our daily lives. Abolitionist practice means questioning punitive impulses in our intimate relationships, rethinking the ways we deal with personal conflicts, and reducing harms that occur in our homes, workplaces, neighborhoods, and schools. In this way, “living abolition” is part of the daily practice of creating a world without cages.”
This quotation, taken from “Transforming Carceral Logistics,” in CAPTIVE GENDERS inspired members of our study group to ask themselves: “How am I living abolition each day?” It challenged us to think about our daily practice of abolition. Below I share my response to the question “How am I living abolition each day?”:
My daily practice of abolition is grounded in a compassionate attitude towards everyone. I check my impulses to judge and categorized people based upon their present circumstances and recent behaviors. I find that this makes it easier for me to connect with and listen to other people.
It is said: Hurt people hurt people. Behind these walls, there are many hurting people. When someone does something we don’t like, we want to lash out and punish them. Abolition obligates us recognize, check and change this attitude. In a scene from A Raisin in the Sun, Mama Younger tells Beneatha the following:
“There is always something left to love. And if you ain’t learned that, you ain’t learned nothing… Child, when do you think is the time to love somebody the most; when they done good and made things easy for everybody? Well then, you ain’t through learning- because that ain’t the time at all. It’s when he’s at his lowest and can’t believe in hisself ’cause the world done whipped him so. When you start measuring somebody, measure him measure him right, child, measure him right. Make sure you done taken into account what hills and valleys he come through before he got to wherever he is.”
This scene reminds me to not be judgmental, hastily casting people off, rendering them disposable, because they’ve done’ something not to my liking. Abolition reminds me that those are the times when love, understanding and compassion are most necessary.
A scholar in my religious tradition defined blessedness as “teaching goodness wherever one goes and always being sincere to people.” To me, these traits are tied to being compassionate. They call me to see worth in everyone and to honor that worth. This is how I practice abolition daily.
We would love to hear how you are living abolition daily. Pass this on to others in the struggle so we can learn other ways we can practice abolition.
How are you practicing abolition today?
Stevie and the Smithfield Abolition Study Squad (SASS)