This really is an awful situation — there’s nothing more painful than sticking by your principles and then being punished for it by none other than the people we love. Unfortunately, that happens a lot in the world we live in, by which I mean a world rife with systemic violence, oppression and the disposability paradigm — the notion that if we cannot get along with someone, the best solution is to get rid of them. On the other hand, I can tell you that you stand in good company. After all, who is a revolutionary if not someone who risks punishment in order to stand up for their morals?
Of course, that may be cold comfort right now. You’ve just gone through a terrible relationship rupture with your best friend and possibly your whole friend group. You’re likely feeling betrayed, angry and confused, and that all makes perfect sense for the situation you’re in. Perhaps we can start by taking a moment to honour those feelings: what you are going through is not fair. You were trying to be a good person, to really live your politics, and now you may have lost some relationships. No one deserves that.
Next, let’s sort out some of the underlying issues at stake. You’re asking some big questions here, and I think a lot of people in our generation are asking themselves similar things at the moment: what does it mean to be a good person (ie, standing up against cops), and what happens when trying to be good brings us conflict with our loved ones (who might be dating cops)? How do we make friendships last as adults who are struggling in a time when the ravages of late-stage capitalism have made economic and social survival so very precarious? What do we do when it feels like we’re being disposed of?
I can tell from your letter, ACAB, that you’ve fully thought through the ethics and impact of the police on marginalized communities. For readers who aren’t as familiar, however, I’ll go through them briefly here:
In short, while mainstream, middle-class communities are often taught to associate the police with safety, protection and “the good guys,” many marginalized people experience police very differently. Black, Indigenous, migrant, and sex work communities in particular report having extremely negative relationships with law enforcement due to being disproportionately targeted and subjected to abuses of police power — sometimes extending to sexual assault and murder.
Beyond the abuses and misuse of power, however, the nature of policing as an institution means that police officers are tasked with using force to uphold the law, even when the law is oppressive or unjust. A classic example, of course, are the laws against homosexuality that, until relatively recently, resulted in thousands of queer and trans individuals being arrested, beaten and imprisoned by police. Understandably, then, many activists and members of oppressed communities see the police as dangerous and antithetical to liberation.