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Dear White Women

Jul 8, 2020

We’ve been hearing a LOT about #DefundThePolice, which doesn’t mean exactly what it sounds like; we’re not here at this point to argue the pros or cons of defunding the police, but what we love to do is to unpack the why behind things, the history of things, so we can better understand what is really happening right NOW.

Today we’re looking at a big historical question that’s central to this whole argument about the police. Why were police formed in the United States? For some of us, we may assume that policing in the United States is as old as this country itself. And that’s not really the truth.

So what is the truth? Glad you asked…

Have questions, comments, or concerns?  Email us at

What to listen for: 

  • The colonial form of policing, and how informal it was at the very beginning.
  • Who funded the police force in 19th century America - and what they wanted the police to focus on protecting. Hint: motivations split between Northern and Southern lines.
  • How the structure and funding of the police had to change as cities, and the country, grew, and yet how they served to reinforce hierarchies in society.
  • Given this, what do YOU think? Can an organization with roots like this be race-blind in its policies and actions? If not, what would it take to change?
  • We offer some personal histories as we reflect on policing, and how ordinary people can make a difference.

Relevant episodes: 

  • If you want more, we mention this episode of NPR’s THROUGHLINE a lot here.
  • We put out a 3-episode arc on the history of domestic terrorism in the United States, including the different forms of the KKK.  Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.

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