The historic uprising in the wake of the murder of George Floyd transformed the way Americans and the world think about race and policing. Why did it achieve so little in the way of substantive reforms? After Black Lives Matter argues that the failure to leave an institutional residue was not simply due to the mercurial and reactive character of the protests. Rather, the core of the movement itself failed to locate the central racial injustice that underpins the crisis of policing: socio-economic inequality.
For Johnson, the anti-capitalist and downwardly redistributive politics expressed by different Black Lives Matter elements has too often been drowned out in the flood of black wealth creation, fetishism of Jim Crow black entrepreneurship, corporate diversity initiatives, and a quixotic reparations demand. None of these political tendencies addresses the fundamental problem underlying mass incarceration. That is the turn from welfare to domestic warfare as the chief means of regulating the excluded and oppressed. Johnson sees the way forward in building popular democratic power to advance public works and public goods. Rather than abolishing police, After Black Lives Matter argues for abolishing the conditions of alienation and exploitation contemporary policing exists to manage.
By Cedric Johnson. Hardcover. 416 pages. Published by Verso, 2023.