decarcerate utah: local views on abolition

image by Eliza McKinney

image by Eliza McKinney

I’ve stolen a lot of retail in my life. Food, toiletries, clothes, jewelry, school supplies, books, gifts… I have never worried about being shot or killed for it. No one ever looked at me twice when I had stolen goods from right under their nose.  I know why.

I admit that some of the stealing came from the thrill of it. But it started out of necessity. It started because I couldn’t afford to eat. Then it became because I couldn’t afford to look good. Or I couldn’t afford to appear stable, or successful. I’m financially stable enough now that I haven’t felt the need to steal for a few years, but it still feels like the corporations I was stealing from are stealing more from me, and from my community. Whether it’s storing the majority of their money in offshore accounts to avoid taxes, paying workers the bare minimum in order to subsidize their profits, lobbying to deregulate the market or destroy workers unions, or making profits from the financial crisis of 2008, corporate owners clearly only care about lining their pockets while they take the rest from us.

I’ve gotten away with a lot of shit for things that black people have been killed for. Elijah Wood was just shot and killed by police in West Valley last week for being suspected of stealing a phone. Nobody ever called the police on me for stealing. I know I’ve been protected by my whiteness, and I know this status has afforded me a lot of safety that isn’t afforded to everyone. Black people are being arrested on the daily just for being black. We have a lot more work than just diversity training to undo the racism this country practices. 

A big focus of my yoga practice has been ahimsa, or non-violence. That means attending to the violence you commit to yourself first, then the violence you commit to your close ones, the violence committed to your community, and finally the violence that your actions commit to the world at large. As I’ve attended to violence, I am shocked at how it plays itself out in our day-to-day life as Americans. The ways I was taught to categorize violence as a white, middle-class Mormon girl from Utah, are very different from the ways I see violence now. It’s a very heavy feeling to sit with. My family, the Mormon community, and white settlers have committed a lot of violence that we are not addressing.

Working on abolition, as a thought process and political action, has been a way for me to sort through this. I do not want to be a leader or overshadow the work of any other abolitionists. The work Eliza and I have focused on is trying to address the source of violence, and focus on how we can, as Miriame Kaba & so many other brilliant women summarize in this interview, organize around making violence unthinkable. Police, the prisons, the military, corporations and the state are all sources of violence, and we can’t forget that as we fight for racial, social, economic and environmental justice.

Eliza and I asked for contributions from people who sympathize with abolition, whether or not they refer to themselves as abolitionists, to compile into a zine. There was a lot of emotional work that was put into this first edition of local views. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to thank our contributors enough. We are hoping to have more copies to sell at upcoming markets around the Salt Lake area, but you can also email decarcerateutah@gmail.com if you would like a copy. We are leaving it free to download and share, but if you feel like contributing to the cause, please consider donating to the Chicago Community Bond Fund.

If you would like to help us cover future printing costs or pay our contributors, you can do so by donating below.