Issa Rae Breaks Down What Defunding Police Means to Her

The 'Insecure' star also touches on how continued protests against racial injustice offer hope for "long-term action" and recommends which activist groups to support.
Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images for The Blackhouse Foundation

On June 2, amid global protests, Insecure's Issa Rae shared with her 2.7 million Instagram followers the groups she recommended supporting — BLM, Regional Bail Funds, Defund the LAPD, BLD PWR, National Police Accountability Project, ACLU and Black Table Arts — as a way to answer the question, "What can I do?"

“I recognized that so many people felt anxious, overwhelmed and aimless," she tells THR of the decision to encourage action over simply posting on social media and calling it a day. "While I saw various anti-racism lists circulating, they each had like 30-50 broadly Black organizations, which is great, but a lot. So, I wanted to consolidate my call to action to a few organizations that kept the focus and mission clear. For me, that mission is to end police brutality and killings."

How did you settle on those organizations?

My staff and I discussed extensively and did the research. Some organizations we were already supporting and knew they did the work, like the ACLU, BLD PWR and Black Lives Matter. Within those, we wanted to support the initiatives to hold the police accountable, to ultimately Defund the Police via the People's Budget, and to aid protestors in the immediate time by providing bail money. We're also a creative company and all hailed from art programs of sorts, and recognized the importance of supporting those organizations in our communities, so that's where supporting Black Table Arts in Minneapolis came into play. 

All are causes that have risen to the forefront in recent weeks. I know you’re passionate about defunding the police via the People’s Budget. Marches and demonstrations have led to more visible conversations about this push. Are you encouraged by the recent groundswell of support?

I'm encouraged because, for the first time, it feels like white people are listening and white guilt may lead to long-term action. These thoughts are already mainstream, but we have to maintain the momentum and continue to make this a priority.

And you favor defunding the police — allocating their budget for social services — over abolishing the force altogether? If so, why? 

I definitely fully support allocating the police budget to more social services, and I absolutely support abolishing the police in the long run, and especially in communities that don't benefit from police services. But we need a comprehensive plan, because too many people can't see it, and too many people don't care enough to educate themselves because they operate in a safe bubble. And I don't think you can talk about abolishing the police in its entirety in this country without addressing gun control and reform. Those things go hand in hand, and I think as long as we have a gun problem, we're going to have a police problem. 

Another cause you're supporting is getting out the vote to counter voter suppression that we’re seeing in places like Georgia. There are fewer than 150 days until the election. How will you be supporting fair elections in coming months, and what should your peers and the public be doing?

I am having a lot of conversations with organizations and getting more educated. Like I think about the primary election in Kentucky, where they cut polling stations down by 95 percent, and of course Black people are most affected. In Louisville, where most Black residents live, they have one station for 600,000 to 700,000 people. That is clear and obvious voter suppression, and that is a decision that's made at the state level. I obviously can't vote in Kentucky, but I can get the information out about the injustices and put the spotlight on it. These decisions happen on a state level, so it's so, so important to participate in these smaller elections. People think it's just about Biden and Trump, but this is where you create true change, in the House and the Senate. If you want to make a difference in stopping this, look up the organization Fair Fight that combats voter suppression.

Regarding Insecure, you're writing season five now after wrapping up what many fans on social media have called a “perfect season” and finale. Congratulations, by the way. I read recently how tight of a schedule you keep, but how do you fit in checking and processing news and staying informed about all the aforementioned topics? 

Thank you! I pretty much only listen to news podcasts — in the morning and in the evenings — so I stay pretty informed. This moment is too important not to. 

Interview edited for length and clarity.

A version of this story first appeared in the July 1 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.