In this episode of Who Belongs? we hear from Erin Kerrison, an Assistant Professor of Social Welfare at UC Berkeley, to discuss her thoughts on transforming social structures and imagining futures beyond police following the murder of George Floyd. Professor Kerrison’s work investigates the impact of structural disadvantage, concentrated poverty, and state supervision on health outcomes of individuals and communities marked by criminal justice intervention.
Subscribe to Who Belongs? on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Soundcloud, Spotify, Stitcher, and anywhere else podcasts are found to keep up with future episodes of the show.
Related resources from Professor Erin Kerrison
- Stop-gaps, lip service, and the perceived futility of body-worn police officer cameras in Baltimore City
- “Your Pants Won’t Save You”: Why Black Youth Challenge Race-Based Police Surveillance and the Demands of Black Respectability Politics
- The mismeasure of Terry stops: Assessing the psychological and emotional harms of stop and frisk to individuals and communities
- Video: The Costs and Benefits of Addiction Diagnosis
Erin Kerrison: We always look at who died and we should, but we talk less about the folks who survived shootings that are non-fatal, right? Like spinal cord injuries and things like that. We talk less about what it means to bear witness to that, what it means to be a caregiver for that person that now cannot move or cannot speak and things like that, cannot work, cannot parent. And I think that's something that we're not reckoning with when we think about police violence and we think about police harms.
Marc Abizeid: Hello, and welcome to this episode of Who Belongs?, a podcast from the O&B Institute. My name is Marc Abizeid, the host of the show, and I'm here with Erfan Moradi, one of our summer research fellows who will be co-hosting this episode.
Erfan Moradi: In this episode, we hear from Erin Kerrison, Assistant Professor of Social Welfare at UC Berkeley to discuss her thoughts on transforming social structures and imagining futures beyond police following the murder of George Floyd. Professor Kerrison's work investigates the impact of structural disadvantage, concentrated poverty, and state supervision on health outcomes of individuals and communities from marked by criminal justice intervention.
Marc Abizeid: Here was our conversation.
Marc Abizeid: So anyways, Erin, first of all, thank you so much for being on our show, and I actually want to start off by telling a really quick story from when we first met, or the first time I saw you speak. You were giving a presentation about three years ago on a prison-based drug treatment program, and towards the end of the talk, someone asked you something like, "What would you tell the prison people to fix the program," or something. "What should we do to reform it?" Then you said — this is what really left an impression on me — I'm quoting you here, you said, "It's really difficult as someone who's an abolitionist to have meaningful, productive conversations with folks who are committed to reform. I don't want to fix it. I don't want to fix it." You repeated that like six times.
Erin Kerrison: Yes, sounds like me.
Marc Abizeid: Yep, and then you said, "I want people to think about why they are wedded to this mechanism to begin with." Like I said, it left an impression. And just reflecting on the last few weeks, it seems like there's millions of other people who have gotten there because we've seen the conversation shift from talking about reform to defunding police and dismantling police. So we're going in that direction, and so I'm wondering what your thoughts have been over the last few weeks in seeing the rapid shift in this discourse since the murder of George Floyd.
Erin Kerrison: Thank you for that question. Thank you for the reminder. I'm so happy to learn that I'm still on brand and I won't likely shift from that posture. In fact, if I do, it means we got our work done so I hope I can stop saying that. But until then, that will be my heartbeat and battle cry. But yeah, I've thought a lot too about these last few weeks. There's a lot of things happening.
Erin Kerrison: For one, this isn't a new discussion. This isn't a new struggle. This isn't a new plea. People, and Black folk in particular, but the most marginalized among us — poor, unhoused, disabled, queer, trans — have really been living under the heels of police. When I say police I mean the institution, I'm not singling out individual police officers, though I'm sure we'll get into a bad apple conversation at some point this afternoon. But I'm talking about the structure, and honestly, it's a metaphor, but it is true, right? George Floyd was beneath the knee of a police officer. So we've been barely surviving, and I really think it's a testament to just how remarkable Black people are as a diaspora. So that's not new, right? We've always, always been clinging for claims to our lives and that of our children's and that of our families and that of our futures. What we're seeing now is beautiful, right? I mean, folks are calling to arms around the world. You see these statues being toppled and all these sorts of things. But what I also think is happening is that beyond Black folk who have always, always been vulnerable to and subject to police surveillance and police violence, is that other people are fed up with structures.
Erin Kerrison: So what I'm talking about specifically is this particular moment, social, economic, historical flashpoint where we've got COVID. People are sick, people are dying, and thousands by the day. Millions of people are unemployed. Even when we sort of turn the light switch back on to let up our social distancing and sheltering-in-place mandates, those jobs won't necessarily be waiting for folks. In fact, I think many of them will be gone as we move towards automation. Folks are scared to death about what's going to happen in November with the presidential election. So there's a lot of precarity and there's a lot of, "I have no idea what's coming down the pipe, but what I see and smell now is rotten."
Erin Kerrison: So I think what we see with this swell, this social movement if you will, around police violence, anchored in a desire to upend anti-Blackness is really a confluence of stresses and a lack of tolerance from folks who just don't — they're not satisfied with the systems that are built to serve them, ideally, but in fact wreak havoc on their lives. So I think that's a big part of it. This is nothing new. The swelling numbers, the legions if you will, I think they've emerged in large part because this is a moment where folks are tired. Folks are scared and they're tired and they just want things to be different.
Erfan Moradi: We know that police haven't existed forever. We've had lives and worlds and histories beyond them. Police have its roots in particular histories of capitalist and colonial development, for example, in imperial England and colonized India and the Philippines and in the transatlantic slave trade. In a recent article, you explain that in the American context, policing originated during slavery and in early industrialization in order to protect, and I quote, "the interest of capitalists, industrialists, landowners, and the elites." Can you tell us a little bit about these histories and speak to the importance of historicizing policing as an idea?
Erin Kerrison: Yeah. So first I'll say it's a Western idea, right? In the U.S., I mean the American project is a raced one to be clear. It's definitely one built on the backs of enslaved Black folk and Indigenous genocide. That's just indisputable. But we've seen mechanisms and structures of state-sanctioned social control and violence all over the Western frontier, if you will. You talked about industrialized England, you can go further back to the divine right of kings and fiefdoms and ways to control surfs that either didn't align with Christian ideals and property ownership and that kind of thing. And yes, you see it in other places around the world and in the U.S. you see it as police, so that's one of the newer manifestations of this. But this is a very Western enterprise, to have some sort of centralized unit decide what our collective ideals are for what is a productive person or who is a member of our community, whose worth — whose life, excuse me — is worth protecting. That is not new. It just simply morphs and shifts.
Erin Kerrison: In the U.S. specifically, police has a regional role or regional embodiment. So in the South of course following Reconstruction, we had chain gangs. The 13th Amendment said you wouldn't be a slave anymore, no more involuntary servitude, unless you had committed a crime for which you were convicted. So we find other ways to police free Black people in the South at the turn of the 19th-century. [W]e're sitting now, or I am anyways — I'm assuming you're somewhere near me in California — this is stolen land. What I call Richmond, California is Huichin Ohlone land and it's unceded. So Indian constables really just pushed and killed on the way there, but just pummeled through all these indigenous groups way out to the Pacific Ocean and beyond that, right? We're looking at Hawai'i. So that's one geographical locale. And also as industry, steam and water locomotives, and all that came to the Midwest and the North, we saw police officers working as union busters and disrupting equalizing efforts among laborers in factories and in slums — "ghettos" — in places like New York and Boston and Philadelphia and Chicago.
Erin Kerrison: So policing was, and still is, a very localized enterprise. That's always been the case because if police exist as an arm of the state to control groups that, again, are maligned with the middle-class ideals, and those might be white, Christian, cis-het, male, property-owning — all the kinds of things that I think are still robust today as far as what the American dream looks like — then policing will take whatever shape it must to control people that don't align with that, that don't aspire to that, or don't have the capacity, of course by no fault of their own, to realize that kind of life for themselves. So it's a very local practice. So even when folks say, "Oh, but police look so different here and here and here," I say, "Well, but what's the anchor?" I promise you. It's about controlling people who don't fit. And it's completely constructed and arbitrary what it is to fit and who does, but it's no less real in its implications.
Marc Abizeid: So Erin, with that description of the role of police in society, what is your reaction to some of the changes we've been seeing across the country, including this week at the federal level when the House passed the police reform bill, which is called George Floyd Justice and Policing Act? And one of the things that bill does is ban chokeholds, removes qualified immunity for police officers, and expands the use of body cameras for police officers.
Erin Kerrison: I'm not really into it. That's the short version.
Marc Abizeid: It was passed unanimously by the Democrats, every Democrat.
Erin Kerrison: That doesn't surprise me. And that's another podcast, like what are the Dems doing? But yeah. So here's the story: we've had these sorts of accountability measures in place. Again, policing is local, so use-of-force policies and protocols around deploying it, moving through the chain of tools available to you, right? You use your voice, you can do hand restraints, baton, taser, spray, up and up and up and up. I don't know if I got that order correct, but basically there's a toolkit, literally, either on your vest or on your belt that an officer has at their disposal, and you're supposed to move from less intrusive to more intrusive. The most intrusive would be of course your firearm if you brandished it. So this idea of no more chokeholds, we've always said, "Please don't choke hold civilians." That's always been on paper. And yet police have resorted to that particular means of restraint far sooner than they should given the protocol of moving through the things on your belt or on your vest.
Erin Kerrison: So I'm not really excited to see this ban because I'm like, "Well, didn't we have that anyways?" These sorts of efforts to keep police accountable via saying, "No more chokeholds, no more qualified immunity, let's use body cameras." You're not supposed to do chokeholds anyway and you never were. Qualified immunity, of course, we need to work through what it means to hold police misconduct accountable, or folks who engage in it rather, accountable to the community that they serve. But that doesn't mean that the policies themselves will be rewritten, right? So you can say, "You no longer have qualified immunity. You're going to be called into criminal court like any other assailant would," but if they're still — these are officers and I'm talking specifically about patrol officers — if they're still operating and executing their charge within the guidelines that are set forth, then they're still not doing anything wrong, right? So we got to start earlier with what is in fact legal, what is in fact appropriate. Until that's rewritten, qualified immunity is just not going to buy you very much. For the idea of expanding the use of body cameras, that's just not the look. We've already had so much data, right? People have body cams: sometimes they don't work, sometimes they don't get turned on, things are manipulated. But even on the best day, an officer who's on their best behavior and doing everything to a T, having footage, again, of this kind of harm and violence that folks are rallying around in outcry, if it's not illegal, it's not illegal. So it's not so much do we need to see police in action, so much as what do we want to collectively decide is appropriate as far as how they act?
Erin Kerrison: Also, with body cameras specifically, we've always had footage. We've always had evidence. We've had dashboard cameras on patrol cars. We've had CCTV — closed-circuit television video recordings — in public transit stations or retail spaces, things like that. And before that we had helicopters. I remember very, very clearly watching Rodney King get up, get down, get up, get pushed down. And we have effigies from lynch mobs. There are people who have little scraps of leather that they fashion purses out of and stuff. Well, that leather is Black skin.
Erin Kerrison: We have always, always had the data. So I don't know that more data is going to do it. And I also know there's a secondary traumatization that comes with these kinds of media that are circulating constantly. Folks don't want to see their people being killed. Fetishizing that is demoralizing. And also it mobilizes and excites people who do want to see Black violence, or I'm sorry, violence enacted upon Black folks. So I'm not a fan of the expansion of body cameras and I don't think qualified immunity or banning chokeholds is the look if we don't start sooner and earlier interrogating what is in fact legal.
Erfan Moradi: Yeah, and I think you're absolutely right, the data's always been there and we've had all of these different ways of recording it. But it seems to me that these reforms aren't sufficient in addressing racist police violence. I'm reminded of that study you co-authored in 2018 in the wake of the murder of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. You and your co-authors spoke to Baltimore residents and found that they're highly skeptical — and of course, reasonably so — the body cameras would stop police violence. But I remember that at least one respondent spoke about the repeated traumas associated with seeing the videos of deaths at the hands of police on the internet. Can you tell us a little bit about the effect of these dual traumas — the daily violence of police, and the secondary violence of circulation and consumption — and its effects on the psyches of populations targeted by the police?
Erin Kerrison: Yeah. So sort of in an abstract way, you can imagine it's super upsetting to see people that look like you, that look like your family members, being slain in the street, and that's not hyperbole. Folks are being gunned down from behind for sleeping at a Wendy's. It's unacceptable, but no less real and true and common. But also, as I said, policing practices are local. So the folks that they subject to these kinds of violent acts, they are our community members, they are our children, they are our neighbors. We play pickup ball with them, we go to church with them. So the abstraction that other spectators might hold while they're watching this is not at all the experience of folks in Baltimore. I spoke to people who were like, "I know Freddie Gray. He dated this person or that." So really, it hits home.
Erin Kerrison: So to see it constantly, especially when you see Black bodies flailing, slain on the ground, is horrific. So even if you wanted to dismiss that, that Freddie Gray is a person that belonged to a community, I still invite people to understand what the physical and psychological traumas are that are tied to the kind of circulation of this media and being exposed to it. That includes all the usual suspects of anxiety and fear and depression. But also we carry it in our bodies, it's in our DNA and our blueprint. Once we are traumatized, that is not undone, right? It's passed down inter-generationally — I can never say that word — epigenetically. Our colleague, Amani Allen in the School of Public Health, writes about this extensively, about how violence, how stress, and how discrimination is literally aging us. It's literally aging us. She talks about the telomeres and how that is an irreparable damage, and then that's also transferred in utero. This is profound. So it's not just like, "Oh, that smarts and that made me sad." There is a legacy of trauma that is passed down among and within Black families and communities that cannot be undone, right? All that we can do now is move forward and say like, "We don't want any more of this imagery. We don't want any more of these killings," and this and that. But we can't even undo [this legacy]. What I carry now, it can't be erased. It can't be erased. I think that's something that we're not reckoning with when we think about police violence and we think about police harms.
Erin Kerrison: We always look at who died and we should, right? No one's life should be traded for the authority of the state. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But we talk less about the folks who survived shootings that are nonfatal, right? Like spinal cord injuries and things like that. We talk less about what it means to bear witness to that, what it means to be a caregiver for that person that now can not move, or can not speak, and things like that. Cannot work, cannot parent. We don't talk about that. That's a different kind of harm that can't be addressed with the toolkits that we're using now to measure it.
Erfan Moradi: To turn to this question of bodies and communities, we're hearing this phrase more and more frequently, "Strong communities make police obsolete." How does that statement sit and resonate with you?
Erin Kerrison: So when I call myself a carceral abolitionist, what I'm talking about are efforts and really commitments to completely ending carceral logics. By that, I mean logics that animate all the practices we have that punish people — particularly for their life circumstances that can be so easily traced to structural divestment and structural violence — to upending systems and practices that are animated by logics of who's foreign, who is other, who is unworthy, right? And also by changing narratives that we, ourselves, within our communities, privileged or otherwise, hold around who deserves to be let in, around who deserves to be fed, or held, or respected, or even seen. So an abolitionist's logic are not at all about anarchy. People say, "Well, what are you going to do with the rapist and the murderers?" I'm like, "Well, I got news for you. Right now we have serious backlogs and really low clearance rates. So if that's what you're most concerned about, this already isn't the look and hasn't been for any stretch of time that you can draw."
Erin Kerrison: But also, it's about making sure that we don't have the market conditions that give rise to a need for police, or even a justification for it, because I still don't think we need it now. But for all the naysayers, right, if I had to play devil's advocate, I would say, "Listen, what if we didn't have crime? That's not so crazy." I don't mean does that mean we'll never have harm, we'll never have hurt, or trouble, or challenges, or conflict. Fine. But crime is constructed, right? What is deemed illegal is not necessarily harmful and there's a whole lot of stuff that wreaks havoc in people's lives that is not illegal, that is not criminal. So that sort of construction, that needs to be thrown out immediately anyways. So that when I say there's a possibility that we don't have to have crime, it's so true. It's so true because it's a construct. If we didn't have crime as such, because communities were stronger, then yeah, we wouldn't need police because police respond to crime, which is in large part a symptom of much, much bigger and deeper social and structural ills.
Erin Kerrison: So when I say I'm a carceral abolitionist, I want to get rid of these structures and I want to get rid of the paradigms that undergird them because they are built on oppression. They're built on coercion, they're built on violence, and they're built on distancing and othering. None of that could ever make for safety. So for me, it's a no brainer.
Erfan Moradi: As we hear this question of defunding the police come to the surface, it seems to me that maybe the question misses some of these larger carceral frameworks that we see spring up in surveillance and in prisons and so on. It seems like sometimes even our radical strategies might struggle to escape carceral frameworks. For example, we see this in Denver where schools have, yes, agreed to cut ties with police departments and cease funding for them, but choose to retain armed security guards, which to me sounded like police in another name. So I'm wondering what are the barriers to these larger structural transformations and how do you see communities coming together to organize and provide care for themselves in ways that the police cannot?
Erin Kerrison: Sure. Well, I first want to address that example, and thank you, Erfan, for offering that, for lifting up what's going on in Colorado. Arguably relying on armed security as opposed to sworn police officers, that sounds very dangerous to me because private systems, however flawed local policing is, once you get into a private arena, all the checks and balances and accountability structures that are in place, re: George Floyd Justice and Policing Act, that goes out the window. So I don't want a cop in a school. I definitely don't want a Black Ops veteran or whoever's joining those sorts of firms in classrooms with my babies. So that for one is not the solve. But also another issue, when we're talking about alternatives to policing, another issue that we have to navigate is whether we're just replacing police with something else that's just as violent and possibly more sinister.
Erin Kerrison: So this is a question that's been posed to me pretty frequently in the last few weeks as a member of the School of Social Welfare at Cal, which is what if we had social workers instead of police? I understand the spirit of that, that social workers are members of a profession that espouse empathic listening and identifying the root causes of problems, and being really oriented towards problem solving. I think the spirit of those things are wonderful, but social work also has a legacy to reckon with. A big, big part of social work is case management. So there's two words I want to pull out of that phrase. Cases, right? So there's an abstraction there, as opposed to people, are being logged. Their lives, that of their loved ones and the people who they work with. Biometric data, for instance, like your analyses and things like that are all included in that case. So we break people down to their actions, many of which are so constrained and so contrived, depending on who's looking at them. So that's really problematic.
Erin Kerrison: Then the management comes right back to that: what are we going to do with this problem population? Whatever that is. If it's someone who's constructed as abusing drugs, if it's someone who is unhoused or in hospice and has no one to take care of them, things like that. These are all people that are on the fringes who we don't know what to do with so we manage them. And with that management comes that abstraction and that bureaucratic administrative approach to addressing human suffering. So that's a whole 'nother issue that people have to keep in the foreground of their mind when they're thinking about alternatives to police. Don't bring in another group of folks who have wreaked havoc in the lives of Indigenous community, Black community, undocumented community, disabled community, unemployed community. I mean, you just name it. These are people who have come under siege within that profession as well.
Erin Kerrison: So when we're talking about how do we shift resources and who to, I would not shift them to anybody who is not impacted by the systems from which we are shifting the resources, right? So if this is not your truth, if you haven't walked this life — and I'm not saying you can't be an ally and an advocate — but if you haven't walked this walk, you should not be the first to the mic to say where resources should be redistributed.
Erin Kerrison: So I'm very, very leery of that too, that as we've seen this huge groundswell of support and coalition-building around anti-Black racism in the U.S. and globally, frankly, I'm listening most closely to the people who are actually impacted by those schema, to the people who are actually surviving it, and to those who are close to our community members who didn't, who weren't so lucky. I don't want to hear anything about alternatives to policing if it isn't authored or at least, at least, drafted in collaboration with people who actually know this world because, as I said, they carry it on their bodies.
Marc Abizeid: So in those conversations that you've been listening to from those people who are impacted, what are some of the things that they envision as alternatives both to policing and to the institution of social work?
Erin Kerrison: I've heard proposals for deploying social workers instead of police officers. So for instance, if there's a 911 dispatch call to send a police officer to a site where someone's in psychiatric distress — they're nonverbal, maybe perhaps navigating an episode, something like that. Instead of sending a police officer who doesn't have the toolkit to navigate that kind of crisis, send a social worker instead. And I want to be very clear about two things. The first is that there are plenty of social workers who are also impacted by the systems that we're working to upend, right? That's why many come to that work. So I don't want to say that these groups are mutually exclusive. The second thing, I want to give big ups to social workers who put their bodies in between police officers and their clients or folks who aren't even their clients. They literally stand between the barrel of a gun and the person who might be met by that bullet.
Erin Kerrison: So they're out there. They're out there in very real ways. But the notion that that is the answer, it does not mean that there's no more police incident and a report filed and more tracking for this person who may or may not wind up in county jail, which right now with COVID is a death sentence, if you've been following that. It doesn't mean that that person won't still have to comply with a number of county or state mandates that demonstrate their performance of healing or trying to get back to some semblance of what it is to be civil, which again is completely out of a lot of people's control given the structural environments in which they live and try to survive. I get that. I get that. Don't send a cop to someone who's in the middle of a psychiatric crisis, but a social worker isn't necessarily the answer either.
Erin Kerrison: We have to start sooner and we got to start further back. Why is this person out in the street experiencing this? Why is this their Tuesday? Because I promise you it is and there'll be back the next day. What are the root causes and how do we address them? Not just identify them so that they are accounted for in our solution, sort of game plan, in our case management. But let's get rid of the root cause altogether. So the proposals that I'm seeing, they don't do that. They don't do that. Maybe in future iterations, they will, but we really don't have time for folks to figure it out. This is not trial and error. This is another reason why I say you need to be listening to people who have been saying this all along.
Marc Abizeid: One thing in one of the previous statements you made about [how] there could be something worse than police, it reminded me of a question that was posed by Boots Riley, the guy from The Coup
Erin Kerrison: Yeah. He's so much fun.
Marc Abizeid: Yeah, he's awesome. What he said is, he asked really earnestly on Twitter, he asked, "For people who want to dismantle the police, I'm onboard, but hold on. If we dismantle the police and we understand the police as an institution that's there to serve the business interests, the elite, the wealthy, if we get rid of the police, won't they just shift to start hiring mercenaries, private armies, and militia?"
Erin Kerrison: Isn't that what I said? Some Black Ops veterans?
Marc Abizeid: Exactly, right in line with that. But his idea is we got to get rid of capitalism and the police together. The whole system needs to be just upended at once. It's like you try to piecemeal it and then you're going to end up maybe worse off than you were originally.
Erin Kerrison: I'm into it. I'm into Boots Riley on a whole lot of levels and for a lot of reasons. Yeah, no, that sounds like gospel. I'm into it. But yeah, because like I said, these are structures and all its machinations that exist in the interests of the powerful. That's it. It's as complicated and as simple as that. So yes, I'm not interested in any game of whack-a-mole where we get rid of police and then some other structure or an iteration of those structures pops up, and it might be more sinister and might be more dangerous. Because for whatever we have to say about policing, there is some oversight. There's some oversight.
Erin Kerrison: Or I should say this: people are bearing witness. I am much more concerned about the execution of "public safety" — if you can see my air quotes — that are conducted by folks who have no skin in the game with respect to community or even how they're perceived by the community. Even the worst mayor was elected and has an interest in being reelected. If we move things to the private sector, we're in trouble and all of that, it just fuels the engine of capitalist regimes. The safest people will be the ones who can pay the most for safety. What is that? That can't be, that just can't be where we're headed. So that's another thing for us to look out for with these alternatives. If we privatize public safety, then it's up for the highest bidder. And who is the highest bidder? The person with the most to "lose" at the hands of the unruly. So the haves and have-nots, those lines will just become darker and the gulf between those two groups will be deeper and wider.
Erin Kerrison: Just scrap it all, just scrap it all. It's basura. We just need to do it. The issue is not, "That's so impossible," because you know what? Wilder things have happened and wilder things will happen still. It's about having an imagination. I think that's in large part what keeps us so constrained is the fear that's stoked, for sure. People think fear is an agitator and I understand that on some level fear keeps us at this Def Con One level. But it's also a pacifier because if you are afraid for yourself, for your future, to go outside, you name it, you become a lot more complacent with respect to critical inquiry. You are less likely because the risks are too high. So to entertain something different without understanding what that would mean or where that would land you and your people, because let's face it, we're not as altruistic as we might say, that's enough. That's enough to keep you in place and in line with the structures that be as they are. So fear, fear is at the base of all of this, I believe, and our unwillingness to confront the limits of our realities and confront our unwillingness to critically engage what might be possible instead.
Marc Abizeid: It's also true when you think about surveillance too. It's like when you go outside and you know you're constantly on camera, that also changes your behavior. And not even when you go outside, but even when you're using a computer, because the corporations that are monitoring you, what you click, where you're browsing.
Erin Kerrison: You're right, though. We're always looking over our shoulders. And Because there's so much insecurity, again, tied to capitalism, people — they really do — they have to fight for what's theirs. And what I invite people to think about is, "What could be ours?" My safety, my health, and my joy is wrapped up in yours. That's it. None of us are getting out of this alive and our fear has us so near-sighted around that. We just can't see beyond our next meal, our next day. We don't recognize collectively that that's exactly what's meant to be, that that's on purpose. That vulnerability, that precarious. That's what I mean about being a pacifier because it keeps you in line because all you want to do is make sure that you and yours eat the next day. What would be a better use of our time, what would be a better way to devote our energy, instead of into panic, would be about collective health, collective safety, and collective joy. If we were to devote our attentions to that work and to that kind of liberation, we would not need structures of control.
Marc Abizeid: That wraps up this episode of Who Belongs? I'd like to thank our guest, Erin Kerrison, an Assistant Professor of Social Welfare at UC Berkeley, for coming on our show.
Erfan Moradi: For links to some of Professor Kerrison's work on the topics we discussed, visit us online at belonging.berkeley.edu/whobelongs. There you can also find a transcript of this interview.
Marc Abizeid: This has been Marc Abizeid.
Erfan Moradi: And this is Erfan Moradi.
Marc Abizeid: Thank you for listening