People are protesting across the U.S. right now, in spite of the health risks, because of the brutal killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. An officer kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes while Floyd said repeatedly he could not breathe and citizens screamed for the police to stop. The protests are about the killing of George Floyd and about the deep, longstanding, systemic racism of the U.S. criminal justice system.
I wanted to share these moving remarks from the rapper Killer Mike of Atlanta. Mike powerfully captures the pain of this moment. He begins, shaken, “I didn’t want to come, and I don’t want to be here.”
Killer Mike calls his community to action: “plot, plan, strategize, organize, mobilize,” he says. It is possible to advance justice, he reminds us. He implores us to take the long view-- of the historical forces that created the system we have now, and of the fight ahead.
Much love to network members working to bring legal empowerment to the U.S. criminal justice system, like @JhodyPolk of the Legal Empowerment Advocacy Hub in Florida.
And much love to those tackling abusive criminal justice systems around the world, like @hayazahid of Pakistan and @cliffmsiska of Malawi. We in the U.S. have a lot to learn from you.
The injustice of our systems can be unbearable. We need each other to keep fighting on.
It is a very bleak time. For those looking for organisations to support through this crisis here are some that our staff have been sharing (this is not an exhaustive list and please highlight any others who you know of)
At times like this, it is easy to get lost in aimless grief and rage. In the United States, we are weighed down by the enormity and pervasiveness of the racial injustices that have stolen so many lives and livelihoods over the centuries. Our nation is struggling to find a way out. For those who, like me, have felt overwhelmed these past few days, I’d like to share the words of former President Obama, which have helped to articulate my emotions while offering a concrete path forward - indeed, one that embraces legal empowerment. He notes:
I’ve heard some suggest that the recurrent problem of racial bias in our criminal justice system proves that only protests and direct action can bring about change, and that voting and participation in electoral politics is a waste of time. I couldn’t disagree more. The point of protest is to raise public awareness, to put a spotlight on injustice, and to make the powers that be uncomfortable; in fact, throughout American history, it’s often only been in response to protests and civil disobedience that the political system has even paid attention to marginalized communities. But eventually, aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices — and in a democracy, that only happens when we elect government officials who are responsive to our demands.
…So the bottom line is this: if we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics. We have to do both. We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform.
May we emerge from this unrest a more compassionate and vigilant nation, committed to the tireless and difficult daily work required to make justice a reality for all of us.