This article is by guest author Jules Behrens, of 

There is an insidious kind of legislation that needs to be targeted and named: intentional collateral damage. It is legislation that looks innocuous on the surface, even morally superior, but the natural, logical side effects have a negative impact on vulnerable communities. These communities might include people of color, certain populations of women, LGBTQ folk, the impoverished, immigrants, the disabled, the elderly, etc. – generally, anyone who does not wield much political and financial power.

I’ve seen a lot of this kind of legislation, and it’s hard to pin down because the side effects are not addressed in the legislation itself. Side effects may include excluding people based on privilege or class; making something disproportionately more difficult for some; misappropriating community resources; disrupting communities; and perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

Why target the “little guy”?

The big question is, WHY would our political leaders intentionally target vulnerable communities? Why try to make them MORE impoverished, make it HARDER for them to vote or work or survive?

The answer, as usual, is money. These legislators aim to funnel money to the massive corporations owned by the extremely rich, who pay for their political campaigns. The biggest threat to them are vulnerable communities with large numbers, because they could vote those politicians out through sheer numbers. So … keep them working too hard to have time to vote, to have time to go to school, to have time to educate themselves on the issues at hand. Keep them entertained. Smoke and mirrors, bread and circus.

The more impoverished the people are, the easier they are to control, because they don’t have TIME for anything else.

The war on drugs, for instance

For a prime example of intentional oppression by legislative collateral damage, take a look at Reagan’s war on drugs. They intentionally funneled drug activity into POC communities, and intentionally policed them much heavier, so that they could break up black and Latino communities and swell the ranks of the incarcerated, and called it a War on Drugs.

This isn’t a conspiracy theory, though it sure sounds like one. Reagan’s old administration have published this. It sounded like a good idea in the actual legislation, so the public supported it, then they used it as a measure of oppression in vulnerable communities. Intentional collateral damage.

Women’s health care, for another

Abortion and women’s health care is another good one. Republican politicians would have you believe that they oppose abortion because they don’t want unborn babies killed. But if that’s true, why don’t they also support a good foster care system, or social safety nets for women and children? Or the fiscally conservative option: universal birth control? The truth is much uglier. If women have children, and raise children, before they’re ready, then those women are less likely to go to school, to get good jobs, and to get involved in their communities. That may be the side effect, but it’s what the actual purpose of anti-abortion laws are.

The more impoverished and controlled they are, the less likely they are to have a voice in the system. Opposing abortion isn’t about saving babies, it’s about perpetuating the cycle of poverty, and maintaining the status quo of elite control. Intentional collateral damage.

Opposing abortion isn’t about saving babies, it’s about perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

Push back!

It’s time for conservatives to push back against punitive legislation with intentional collateral damage by promoting the SOLUTIONS to the problems. High number of incarcerated? Look to the systems of rehabilitation that work in other countries. Abortion? Prevent unwanted conception. Lay aside any notions you have of whether people deserve it, of how it SHOULD be, and solve the problem.

Punitive legislation cannot be tolerated from either side – and it does happen from both sides. Help make America actually free, by helping your fellow Americans who have no voice. Stop legislation with intentional collateral damage. Call it out when you see it and insist on something better: solving the problem.