Defund police and schools. Redirect the money to black families and communities.

Defund police and schools. Redirect the money to black families and communities.

I understand that part of Black Lives Matter means White Privilege Matters. Which is to say that justice requires white people to face our fears about giving up institutionalized advantages. If you are white and you’re not scared then you have no idea how much has to change the U.S. to function like black lives really matter. Maybe you’ve read one of those lists of things white people can do to be an ally of black people. But alliances won’t matter unless we make fundamental changes. Here are three things that need to change:

Defund police and channel money to community groups.

Philip V. McHarris and Thenjiwe McHarris wrote an op-ed titled No More Money for the Police. Mr. McHarris is a doctoral candidate focusing on race, housing, and policing. Ms. McHarris is a strategist with the Movement for Black Lives. I am their fangirl. This recent op-ed says that instead of trying to abolish the police we can redirect city police budgets to underfunded city programs like housing, healthcare, and job training.

The police are likely to kill a black person no matter what sort of emergency response they are making. We have tried re-education, body cameras, community outreach, nothing changes the fact that police kill black people.

In the proposed scenario, police respond to calls that are already violent. I envision the police sitting at the desks all day long, waiting for an emergency call no one in the community is willing to attend to without a gun. Meanwhile, cities will redirect police funding to social workers and community groups who don’t carry guns. And instead of arguing for gun control, it’s an argument for controlling the amount we rely on people who carry guns.

Improve healthcare services by studying black culture, behavior, and personal beliefs.

The medical field has already implemented similar tactics. In the 1990s, Dr. William Cunningham pioneered community-based models to treat disparities in medical care between white people and people of color. For example, his research found that after hundreds of years of white doctors purposefully harming black patients, many black people trust their pastor more than their doctor. Black women die from pregnancy-related issues three times more often than white women. Cunningham found that black women want medical information rooted in values. And he convinced Congress to redirect medical spending to black community groups.

By the time Cunningham died in 2019, he had established that what works for white people should not be the default. The medical community has a long way to go to close racial disparities, but Cunningham showed us that to address disparities in health outcomes we need explore culture, traditions and personal beliefs that contribute to black people’s experience with health care.

Turn schools into social services centers and turn white privilege on its head.

Like healthcare services, public schools are built on research that excludes black children. And like the field of medicine, you can account for education and income, and still, white kids come out on top. Recently the Brookings Institute showed that disparities among test scores between black and white kids are from culture rather than income or intelligence. So teaching black kids to take white tests is never going to work.

Schools are obsessed with teaching kids self-control because of the Stanford marshmallow experiment in 1960: If the kid refrains from eating a marshmallow in order to get something better later then the kid will do better in school and career than the kid who eats the marshmallow. The test is has been reproduced many times with white kids and has found to be true regardless of income, intelligence, etc.

However recently Columbia University psychology professor Tyler Watts replicated the marshmallow test with a diverse group of children and he found benefits for some kids to eat the marshmallow. That is a revolutionary finding that should be completely shaking up this country. It means that schools focus on teaching kids self-control when it is actually only proven to be great for the children of Stanford professors in 1960.

Additionally, when black kids don’t do what teachers want, black kids receive more harsh discipline than white kids. We know it’s impossible to train police or doctors to stop acting on racism — even if it’s inadvertent. And the same is true in education. Teachers discriminate against black kids even when the teachers don’t mean to.

So it occurred to me that the elegant proposal for defunding police would also work for schools. Like policing with guns, educating with schools is mostly unnecessary. Kids teach themselves to read when they are ready. Kids learn fundamental math on their own. Kids don’t need school to learn to write. Kids don’t need teachers they need parents. Homeschoolers have a higher acceptance rate to the Ivy League. School is unnecessary for black kids and for all kids.

But when it comes to what is good for black kids, the one thing we do know is that the type of learning that makes the biggest difference is learning you cannot get from school: Self-directed, project-based learning is the only kind of education that gives economic mobility to black kids. And, most importantly, hundreds of studies show that more funding to schools does not help black kids, but more funding for black families and black communities does.

So we should have school teachers educate only the most difficult children: if a parent says they need help, the schools should give help. But otherwise, we should provide families with enough money to ensure one parent stays home with children, and we should turn schools into social services organizations for anyone who needs them.

This is the sort of radical thinking that is going to change the plight of black people in the US. If black lives matter then institutions aimed to prop up white children must be defunded by local, city governments or national government. And each of us needs to do our part to make that happen.

44 replies
  1. Lis
    Lis says:

    Thanks for this post, for those white folks that still do not understand the depths of this outcry or why it’s not a black problem but an American problem watch
    Where a black man and a white man sit to discuss these issues without being emotional. Skip to the beginning of the conversation. You are welcome

    • Dana
      Dana says:

      Thank you, Lis! Penelope – at around 12:30 he brings up the study of the grandchildren of holocaust survivors then relates it to the stress of the African-American people..

  2. Michelle Hampton
    Michelle Hampton says:

    Penelope, this is an amazing post and speaks to the ideas floating around in my brain that I have always wanted to put in words!

    I would add the need for mental health, and in reference to the church, the black church could pay tuition for those with “gifts” in counseling to become LMHC’s to provide counseling in both the church setting and the social service centers that would replace schools. In this way it addresses black values and culture that you mention.

    Since historically blacks aren’t down with “counseling” what better way to provide a space for it that is conducive to their needs, culture and values.

    Thank you for calling out disparities and providing a real and viable solution!

  3. Lea
    Lea says:

    You lost me when you casually dropped your suggestion that 1 parent should stay home and educate their children. That is a pretty broad assumption to think that this is something people would subscribe to. My wife stayed home with our son for his first18 months and realized she was not cut out to be a teacher even at that age. Neither of us were. That’s why teaching a profession, and you’re saying only those who need social services help should be allowed to be educated by a professional teacher? What?

  4. Tracy Stone
    Tracy Stone says:

    Help me with this, please: black women want medical information rooted in values. What does that mean? You’ve always been a little out there with your ideas, but this article’s pretty extreme. Maybe it’s a socioeconomic problem more than a skin color problem. Police shootings have gone down and if you compare people shot in the commission of violent crimes, the rate for blacks and whites shot is pretty much identical per 10,000 people. Why aren’t the whites and hispanics out screaming in the streets if this is such an issue? Maybe work on the programs that help to increase personal responsibility and quit putting the onus on the government. People need to take care of themselves.

    • Michelle Hampton
      Michelle Hampton says:

      Is not educating your child/children taking responsibility and removing it from the government?

      Parents don’t parent, when out back in their hands like now with the virus and being online and then dumping the resources from public schools which are clearly ineffective, back into the community/families helps the parent stay at home and raise (which should include education) her/his child. The resources could pay for tutors, etc that provide real education.

    • MJ
      MJ says:

      Have you ever read about Henrietta Lacks? That would be a good pace to start when learning about what ‘Black women want medical information rooted in values’ means. Also consider that African-American is a term used to encompass anyone Black in the US even if they or their families have roots in other countries and cultures. For example, cultural practices around childbirth and caring for a post-partum mom and newborns are often times very different than American cultural practices. Simplified example – I’m Black, check the African-American box on the census, but I am Jamaican. In my culture boys aren’t circumcised, should I not have that option to integrate my cultural practices into my personal healthcare plan with medical staff if I live and pay taxes in the U.S?

      I agree that what we are seeing now is a huge socioeconomic problem. I don’t have all the answers to solve that one, but I do know that it will require resources and investments in education, childcare and viable employment. Everyone will benefit, not just Black Americans.

      In regards to police shootings, White and Latino people should be angry as well. Maybe everyone is banking on the police only focusing their aggression on Black communities, but what happens when they start becoming judge, jury and executioner for poor people who can’t afford lawyers to sue or garner national attention? Oh, they’re dong that already. Remember the White guy the cops murdered while he lay, unarmed on the floor of a hotel hallway?

      Does someone deserve to die because they mouthed off to a cop? Or driving with a broken tail light? How about the EMT that was murdered while she slept? What kind of personal responsibility did she lack?

      I don’t know man, I don’t care what color your skin is, no one deserves to die in the street like an animal. This is human life we’re talking about. And I think a lot of people forget about that part or are not willing to admit out loud that they don’t see Black people like me as human.

      Hopefully you’ll never know what it feels like to have a loved one taken from you in this manner.

  5. Ann
    Ann says:

    Teach black mayors how to make decisions based on data not emotion.
    The Mayor of DC shut doe the entire to protect the predominantly black Wards 7&8. She did examine the data at a more granular level, which showed Ward 3 , the predominantly white area had few cases and few deaths If she had used cell phone data, then she would have seen that there is relatively little between Ward 3 and the other wards. Instead she was too busy pointing out health disparities and the the underlying conditions that made Covid 19 worse in black areas. What has she done to reduce those health disparities? Very little. If black lives don’t matter to a black mayor, then why should I be concerned? If she can’t Marshall her resources as a black mayor, then what can I do to bring about change?

    • Lis
      Lis says:

      Do you do the right timing because others do it ? Do the right thing because you are a decent human being not because a ‘black’ mayor did or did not do some thing. There are many resources online to inform you on what you can do at your level. Crushing a mans neck with a knee till he cried for his mother is the point here not semantics about a black mayors actions.

    • The Original D
      The Original D says:


      Let’s get past the culture war. Cops should never treat ANY American the way they treated George Floyd. They do this to poor whites, the homeless and the mentally ill too.

      Police violence should be exceedingly rare.

      It is NOT something you do to a guy who passed a bad check or $20 bill or whatever.

      Also, abolish police unions. Turn the police into a branch of the service like the coast guard, with each local force under civilian control by the mayor and city council.

  6. Kitty Kilian
    Kitty Kilian says:

    Interesting – ‘disparities among test scores between black and white kids are from culture rather than income or intelligence’ >> Racism = cultural and learned too.

    Also: homeschooling is no solution if the parents have not had access to good schooling themselves, right? Or if living conditions are cramped. Et cetera. So making the schools better might be a more useful first step.

    But really, it takes taking away wealth from the priviliged (whites) and spending it on the underpriviliged (blacks) to repair the inequality. Y’all might want to vote for that ;-)

  7. Jane
    Jane says:

    Thank you for this. I totally agree w you. Looks like you have become radicalized and dare I say woke? Whatever that means. I need to ask you this>>>>. Is there any nation where the police have been defunded?

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I know this doesn’t totally answer your question. But here are countries that have unarmed police: Iceland, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, the United Kingdom.


      • Esmie
        Esmie says:

        Yea and most of those countries are not a hodgepodge of diverse groups. Remove the police and we are done for! Crazy thinking!

        Look at the poor owners (Cuban descendant -not white) of the music store in Santa Monica who ran a music business and catered to low income families and helped get the arts out to people who couldn’t afford it. In broad daylight they looted their store and destroyed everything. And when they called the police, the police couldn’t do anything about it and asked them if they had a gun to defend themselves. So sad! This is not what we want across America!

        • Mysticaltyger
          Mysticaltyger says:

          I understand frustration with the police. But the hard truth is that black neighborhoods have the most crime and blacks are more likely to be victims of crimes from other blacks. Take away the police and does that get better? I don’t think so.

          Also, I’d love to find out the details about these tests being culturally biased. I seriously doubt that this explains all or most of the difference between black & white test scores. Because political correctness has taken the subject off the table for discussion, nobody wants to talk about the fact that IQs between whites and blacks is significant, and most (not all), of that gap is genetic in origin.

          • harris497
            harris497 says:

            MT, you must be joking. The blacks of the caribbean who are educated using a derivation of the old British system, routinely matriculate to American universities, as I did, and excel. Google the SAT scores of the tiny island of Barbados and you will be very surprised. Incidentally, the genetic makeup of my people is identical to those of African Americans.
            Stop seeing what you want to see; hearing what you want to hear, and actually seek knowledge.
            That would truly be Mystical.

          • The Original D
            The Original D says:

            It’s not like policing goes away. How about deputizing non-violent community members to defuse tense situations? People get drunk and fight at bars all the time, but community members (and bouncers) work to de-escalate.

            If a cop shows up the chance of a gun being fired goes up exponentially.

      • Craig
        Craig says:

        It’s interesting that you do comparisons with other countries regarding their law enforcement practices. How about with education? Can you think of any country with a functioning government that defunded their public school system? I would bet that their is no developed country on Earth that would consider this as part of national policy.

  8. Kimberly Rotter
    Kimberly Rotter says:

    I’m not a proponent of self directed education but I’ve been reading this blog for more than 13 years and it’s a big part of the reason I chose to homeschool my now 10 year old.

    Penelope, I love the way you write and I love the way you think. I appreciate this post, and the time you took to research and write it, so much.

  9. Sarah M
    Sarah M says:

    My gut reaction to this post was it is about 50 years ahead of its time, even though all the ideas are really interesting to consider. It’s so ‘out there’ because it’s calling for multiple paradigms shifting at once.
    I’d be interested to know what your kids think will happen with their generation as it pertains to politics/healthcare/etc.
    Sarah M

  10. Frank
    Frank says:

    I wouldn’t want to participate in this experiment as a resident, but I’d be curious to see how a community fared from the standpoint of having a defunded police force, evaluating crime trends a few months from its implementation. My expectation is that everything goes to hell, but who knows.

  11. Amy
    Amy says:

    Thank you so much for writing this article Penelope. Sometimes when I cite your stuff to my friends, they tell me I’m just spouting craziness or that it makes no sense, but it’s pieces like these that make me so excited to read your blog. As a young person (22- Class of 2020!) and WOC your advice, calls to action, and knowledge are always helpful, and deeply inspiring. Thanks again for this piece.

  12. harris497
    harris497 says:


    It’s about options. We don’t need defunded policing, we need better policing and greater oversight similar to the federal oversight removed by Sessions and Trump? Why defund the police when there is the military, etc. that are overfunded. When is the last time a drug dealer in the burbs or hood owned a plane or boat to bring drugs into this country? Or a tractor trailer to distribute it? We need more educational options, not less as not everyone is a good teacher, even for their own kids.
    This requires thought and dialogue, and you provide good examples of research, but a good start to this dialogue. But I respectfully disagree with much of what you wrote this time.
    my2cents worth.

  13. Tatyana Davis
    Tatyana Davis says:

    I think the resistance to your ideas (evident in the comments) comes from the fear to change our lifestyle as a society. Of course, if we want to continue fast-paced life or work & spending, we need strong militarized police to clean up the fringes of society and to keep those who are not engaged in the lifestyle of majority locked away and out of sight. We need well-funded schools to keep our kids locked in for their safety and away from our work. In order to de-militarize (de-fund) the police and to defund the schools, half of the adult population must change their lives. America does not have the reputation of a country that happily takes care of the people who are not locked in work & spend cycle. It is scary to envision oneself completely reliant on other people: family members who can abuse use and the governmental bureaucracy that does not serve you. So in order to move forward with any changes, we first must move past the fear.

  14. Maree Livermore
    Maree Livermore says:

    Yes it is radical, but the old structures are clearly failing. Police, corrections and education systems are framed in (white) hegemonic Western cultural dynamics originating centuries back. Yes, abolish the police. And jails. And schools. And the mental health systems and start them all again with fit for purpose models. (I’m OK with one at a time….) Iterative, incremental changes to any of them simply are not going to work.

  15. Christopher Chantrill
    Christopher Chantrill says:

    OK Wokies, enjoy.

    But it was eevil racist Charles Murray that pointed out in Losing Ground that the Great Society wasn’t working and the social science instrumentation inserted into the programs clearly demonstrated failure. The he wrote The Bell Curve in the 1990s that the US was creating a society with a “cognitive elite” where the only thing that counted was IQ. Raciss!

    Then he wrote Coming Apart (just about white America) to show that white professionals, the top 25%, do fine, with great careers and merger marriages. The white underclass, the bottom 30%, is hurting; the men don’t work much and the women don’t marry much. The white Everybody Else are in the middle. There’s your white privilege.

    Did you know that the police and fire unions are the chief kingmakers in local politics? So how’s that defund-the-police thingy going to go when the one thing that the police union cares about more than get-out-of-jail-free cards for police is their pension fund?

    Here’s an idea for cities. Sell the utilities to private industry and spend the proceeds on women and minorities. The money the sales would make would be staggering.

  16. Sean Crawford
    Sean Crawford says:

    I’m not a racist, but I like the Jewish word Moked, meaning focus. I hope that in time the forces of progress can agree to focus on one or more things to advance the cause of anti-racism. Scientists often find that before the graph starts going up steadily, there is a scribble stage. I think we are there now.

    Managers say, “If you can measure it you can manage it.” While there are lots of good non-measurable things to do against racism, I think it would give people an initial success experience to start with something measurable. Like losing pounds when you start a health plan.

    The far right wants us to believe that citizenship is confined to briefly voting, or to briefly protesting. I think with the right focus and leaders, anti-racism can be a year long effort. But, as MLK said, progress is not inevitable. I can remember the protests against the G-8, and the Occupy Wall Street efforts. Both efforts rejected having leaders, rejected research to explain things to the rest of us, and rejected making a decision to committ.

    Yes, leaders might be wrong, and we might pick the wrong focus. But still, anything is better than the zero results of the Occupy movement.

    I think diverting police funds to civilian anti-crime stuff, such as to community resources, is measurable.

  17. Jake
    Jake says:

    For residential and small business neighborhoods, cities need to return to the walking the beat model. . The problem with patrol car model is police only show up when there is an issue. This approach just intensifies the anxiety, stress, conflict, fear and the whatnot that are already occurring. That increases the likelihood of having a bad out come.

    My feeling about defunding can be described as: The King is dead. Long live the King (or New boss same as the old boss). I will pick on Minneapolis. I have lived & worked there. I have also served on the BOD for a small non-profit housing unit for a number years. I’ve dealt with housing inspections, fire inspections, health board inspections, licensing board, the Police Department, and various other boards. I cannot recall every having a pleasant experience with any of the groups within City Government. Our way or the highway is a common mentality. Multiple times, we had to bring in lawyers of time to deal with one of the city’s departments.

    If a city’s government has a bad culture, I cannot see it building a model that will be any better than the old one.

  18. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    You’re kooky. Don’t call police again then ever. Police killed nine unarmed black men. Police don’t kill more unarmed black men thx. Unarmed white men. White on black violence is a tiny fraction of black on white violence. Most drug charge prisoners are there on other charges. The problem is criminality and single parenthood. Like Obama said. He’d be fried now if he said it. But he and Michelle amassed enough she can buy $1000 boots and lecture me, someone never middle class as a child, never benefiting from affirmative action (read her mediocre college essay and frankly it stinks. I’m just being generous) but She ain’t lecturing me on privilege. Tons of poor white rural Americans died from opium while she changed school lunches so no kid wanted them. You can have your own opinions not your own facts.
    Not all police are corrupt.
    We need the police.
    Police unions, product of politicians Penelope loves, secure insane salaries and protection from wrongdoing
    Change them you’ll solve the brutality problem
    George Floyd held up a black woman in her home. Fact. Some hero. Don’t hold him up as a hero just because you’re anti police brutality.
    There is no racism in America that’s broadly institutional except affirmative action
    Screw you. I’m not kneeling. I’m not racist. I Am not deluded and the facts I cited are Verifiable. Blm cites trans people what the heck does that have to do with blm? It’s a confused radical group with no messaging and no solutions. But fork over your money to pay a black bureaucrat six figures.
    Yes Penelope black single moms are like you. Spoiled. Entitled. Begging for money on patreon. They can just homeschool and work from home giving people lame advice for $300 hr. Great work if you can get it. Support charter schools and vouchers if you want to help any kids in failing schools. Don’t get me started on teacher unions! Why does a teacher need a Union? Who’s exploiting them?

  19. diga
    diga says:

    This is a great twitter thread (parts 1 and 2 are embedded in part 3) that talks about how so much of what the police do every day is generate fees and revenue for local governments.

    Eliminate those burdensome “poor taxes” and many police touchpoints are no longer required. And meaningful changes could be made to redirect resources to help people where it is needed instead.

  20. samantha
    samantha says:

    you are just rehashing the uber-pc party line here. not original or interesting. i am always curious what you are thinking because you think differently. namaste.

  21. Sean Crawford
    Sean Crawford says:

    I thought of something.
    Years ago I was crazy-mad. I vowed that if anyone from a certain city sat at my tavern table, I would get up and leave. Why so crazy? Because they dumped all their mentally ill from the institutions onto the street, dumped without hiring support staff for their new situation. All the experts and news reporters said that was no good. But down the years supports were never hired, even as people continue to say “no good.” I wonder how many of them would grab a screw driver or a knife and be killed by a cop.

    If for the first time in years we can defund the police, fund the workers, and reduce the number of times police need to be called to a mentally ill person by, say, 90 per cent, then I think even the police union would applaud the defunding.

  22. Jason Butler
    Jason Butler says:

    My liberal friends, you really want to reduce the police encounters and escalations involving black people?
    Conservative friends, you really want to reduce black on black crime?
    Great news, both of these can easily be achieved all we have to do is…
    ***End the War on Drugs***
    Do it quickly and do it completely and I guarantee wonderful results

    • Michelle Hampton
      Michelle Hampton says:

      Do you really think that is viable? The point of this post is practical in nature. What will you do with all the rich white coc heads?

  23. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I don’t believe the call to defund the police is productive. I believe the money that is spent on law enforcement now needs to be reviewed and spent more effectively. I recently came across this story ( ) by Jon Ponder, Founder and CEO of HOPE for Prisoners, a bank robber turned community leader. This black man tells his story of being raised by a single parent in a bad neighborhood and seeing the police as the enemy. It wasn’t until he met an FBI agent assigned to his case that he started to see things differently. His story made an impression on me. The following is a summary by American Thought Leaders – The Epoch Times below the video.

    3:54 A big problem across the country is distrust of the police
    6:54 A three-time convicted felon, Ponder explains how he overcame his own hatred of police
    14:30 Moving stories of reconciliation between ex-convicts and police
    21:26 What is community policing?
    26:00 Ponder’s take on calls to defund the police
    28:31 Impact of the First Step Act
    30:08 A path forward to reducing crime in inner cities

    Following the killing of George Floyd, there have been growing calls to defund the police. Through the eyes of an ex-con who successfully turned his life around, why is this dangerous and counterproductive?

    What are real strategies to mend relations between law enforcement and communities that distrust the police?

    And, how can we as a society reduce violent crime and help formerly incarcerated Americans build a better future?

    In this episode, we sit down with Jon Ponder, Founder and CEO of HOPE for Prisoners.

    This is American Thought Leaders 🇺🇸, and I’m Jan Jekielek.”

    • Mark W.
      Mark W. says:

      President Donald Trump issued a full pardon to Jon Ponder today. The ceremony featured POTUS Trump, Jon Ponder, Richard Beasley (the FBI agent who arrested him and now good friend), and Jon’s wife and can be found on The White House YouTube channel.

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