I finished the book Biased by Dr. Jennifer L. Eberhardt on the same day that George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police.
The book contains page after page of research, over a period of decades, demonstrating how bias plays out in our lives. And more importantly, how it plays out in law enforcement. The book opens with a training for the Oakland police department. The department was trying to remedy extensive civil rights violations. The bias discussed in the book focused on how we view Black Americans.
Bias exists in all our lives, regardless of where you sit on the political spectrum or where we sit in the justice movement. None of us are immune. Reading the dozens of research studies clearly solidifies how bias against Black Americans exists throughout American society.
And, as a member of that society, bias inside me.
Bias, and more specifically white supremacy, permeates our laws, our law enforcement, and our so-called justice system. A first step toward making changes to these systems is seeing and understanding how white supremacy has played out over the centuries in American religion, American science, and American capitalism.
To be aware and to acknowledge these structural systems can help us move toward changing those systems. Writing this blog helps me to unearth some of my own bias and racism. I am honoring my quarantine and therefore am not able to join in the street protests. My vehicle will be my blogging and tweeting.
Yesterday, President Obama said at the end of his town hall that “this country was founded on protest.” He also talked about modifying policy and voting. Yes, these are both important, but I am firm believer in protest. Without the pressure of the masses, I don’t know how much will truly change. I’m reminded that the Minneapolis city council, mayor, and governor of Minnesota are all democrats. And Minneapolis police have killed over 30 people since 2000. And 1/3 of these were not armed. That’s just one city!
I probably spend too much time on Twitter. I am watching the violence at the protests and countless example of police violence against peaceful protesters. The most egregious is probably the clearing of Lafayatte Square in Washington DC so President Trump could take a picture with a bible. But that’s just one example. There are dozens of short clips from Los Angeles to New York to Ashville to Minneapolis that show extreme violence against peaceful protesters. It is disgusting. And isn’t that what we’re protesting against?
The voice of many leaders has come forth to condemn the murder of George Floyd along with commitments to fight for change. But how far are they willing to go? We must take all necessary steps to combat racism and white supremacy. Even when it impacts the bottom line of capitalism. When I read that the LAPD was using Jackie Robinson Stadium at UCLA to process hundreds of arrests, I wondered how UCLA would respond. It took a day, but they issued a statement denying LAPD access to the property moving forward. That’s what we need to see. Likewise the Minneapolis School District ending their contract with the police department. What are you aware of in your community that upholds white supremacy? Are there changes that can be made like the two above? What organizations or entities are you part of that may be negatively impacting BIPOC communities?
What systems do we need to change? Let’s begin with law enforcement and carceral system. I’m finding myself being an abolitionist. The entire police state is broken in this country. It is irreparable. We need to defund the police state and begin again.
Likewise, the carceral system is broken. The United States has the largest prison population in the world, and the highest per-capita incarceration rate. This is 698 people incarcerated per 100,000 people. Outrageous. Unacceptable.
Look for organizations in your state that are doing the work. No doubt your local community has local police and a local jail or prison. These systems hurt Black Americans disproportionally.
For example, here in California we have California Coalition for Women Prisoners who is running a #FreeOurElders for Mother’s Day campaign. Or check out The Marshall Project. Likewise, you could connect with your local SURJ chapter (or start one) who may already be doing this work to defund the police and end the carceral system.