Here we are again, joining others throughout the world in grief, outrage, and, perhaps most perniciously, recognition over the tragic extrajudicial killing of yet another Black person, George Floyd. This, as we continue to mourn for the unjust losses of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and countless other Black people who have died needlessly at the hands of law enforcement in this country. We stand in solidarity with those engaged in protest. And as these protests increase in their intensity, it is crucial to refocus our attention to the violence that is wielded against Black communities every day.
The callous violence exhibited by those officers in the videoed moments of George Floyd’s murder is haunting and shocking. Yet, these officers’ actions fit comfortably within this country’s long-existing history of racial injustice. Their actions are rooted in the same myth of Black inferiority that justified slavery and thrived in the wake of Reconstruction, Jim Crow, lynching, redlining and segregation, the school-to-prison pipeline, the war on drugs, and countless other anti-Black policies – the presumption that Black people are untrustworthy and dangerous, that Black people as a whole are not equal, less capable, less deserving, less good, less human. It is no wonder that these deaths continue to occur.
This long-standing racial fiction has resulted in institutionalized racism and racial injustice in policies that impact every facet of life – social welfare, education, housing, employment, transportation, and city planning. If Black children are undeserving, then why invest in their education instead of handcuffing them for meaningless infractions? If Black families are untrustworthy, then why ensure that they do not experience homelessness and food insecurity at such disproportionate rates? If Black people are unequal, then why guarantee that the outcome of legal cases that threaten eviction, heavy fines, or imprisonment are based on merit, and not resources? These myths make it easier to look the other way. But, make no mistake, discriminatory policies that exclude Black students and families from educational opportunities, justice in the courts, and critical resources are violent. The chronic underfunding and devaluing of communities of color is violent. The disparate impact COVID-19 has had on Black communities is violent. Looking the other way does not make the destruction go away.
Massachusetts Appleseed’s work to change policies that marginalize, impoverish, and punish communities of color exists within the context of racism’s long, violent legacy; our commitment to promoting access to justice and opportunity is also a commitment to identifying and rooting out the destructive myths that perpetuate these policies. In this charged moment, we urge our lawmakers, policymakers, and leaders to turn away from a return to business as usual. It is clear that talking is not enough. Acknowledging is not enough. Instead, take this time to reimagine our future – one in which our systems support and protect the full humanity of every person, and in which our policies and institutions fulfill America’s most foundational ideals of fairness, justice, and equity.
Melanie L. Todman
Chair of the Board of Directors
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