It’s hard not to feel the intense gravity of everything going on around us right now. At times, it doesn’t feel as if the current state of our country is real. History is unfolding right before our eyes — we’re living through events that will, someday, be taught in classrooms around the country.
I’ve wondered the past couple of months when that on/off switch will happen where suddenly, finally, normalcy has re-entered our lives. But what’s hit, especially over the past week, is that things won’t just go back to “normal.” Perhaps there will be a new normal. But one thing’s for sure, our way of life won’t truly be the same. I hope that it will be for the better.
I’m so proud of Houston’s protestors. On June 2, sixty thousand (sixty thousand!) people took to Discovery Green to protest the unjust murder of George Floyd. It was a largely peaceful protest; seeing the city come together to denounce police brutality was powerful. It’s unfortunate that the nation must protest, to begin with because this shouldn’t be happening to black Americans. I can only hope that now, finally, people will listen.
What happened to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others must be a call to address the systemic racism that permeates not just through law enforcement, but also in all aspects of our country. Healthcare. Education. Our criminal justice systems. Officers who engage in police brutality must be brought to justice, because for too long our systems have let them get off scot-free.
On June 3, it was announced that Derek Chauvin’s charge would be upgraded to second-degree murder, up from third-degree. In addition, the three officers who were present are being charged with aiding and abetting murder. That is a start, but it must be seen through with a conviction for Chauvin and the other officers. Hopefully this is a sign that officers who unjustly inflict pain on or take the life of someone who is part of the community they’re supposed to be serving will finally be held accountable. Justice must prevail over complacency or fear of change.
Of course, these nationwide protests are taking place against the backdrop of a pandemic. President Trump was and is wildly ineffective with handling the pandemic, and unfortunately (albeit unsurprisingly), the same is true when it comes to conversations about racial injustice that are happening around the country. He prides himself on being the president of law and order, which is a dog-whistle that many know all too well.
Trump somehow finds ways to lower the bar for himself: police used force against peaceful protestors in Washington, D.C., using tear gas to clear the way to St. John’s Church on Monday, June 1, all so that Trump could pose in front of the church for a photo. Using a Bible as a prop, the moment reeked of phoniness. Moments before the walk over to the church, Trump said he was an ally of peaceful protestors, and it took mere seconds for that to be contradicted.
Our president is actively exacerbating racial tensions, and much like he has done since day one of coming into office, has divided Americans and sought to pit them against each other for political gain. It is a harrowing reminder of just how vital it is for us to make sure he is not granted a second term. Yet his opponent in November, former Vice President Joe Biden, will need more than just platitudes and a message of restoring the soul of America because when it comes to systemic racism, it is something that has always been present.
People want specifics. Detailed policy changes. Some of these include a ban on chokeholds and strangleholds, de-escalation training, implicit bias training, and strengthened, robust accountability for law enforcement. Police must not be afraid to report when they see brutality inflicted by their peers, and must not receive threats or intimidation for doing so. A police officer with eighteen misconduct complaints, which was the case for Officer Chauvin, should never have been allowed to keep his job. Not even close to that number.
With credit to Time Out for the list, here are some resources and organizations that you can donate to, to support the Black Lives Matter movement and the fight for justice around the country.
Black Lives Matter: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/ms_blm_homepage_2019
Black Visions Collective: https://www.blackvisionsmn.org/
Reclaim the Block: https://www.reclaimtheblock.org/home
Official George Floyd Memorial Fund: https://www.gofundme.com/f/georgefloyd
NAACP Legal Defense Fund: https://www.naacpldf.org/
American Civil Liberties Union: https://action.aclu.org/give/now
National Bail Fund Network: https://www.communityjusticeexchange.org/nbfn-directory
Local Bail Funds: https://bailfunds.github.io/
National Police Accountability Project: https://www.nlg-npap.org/donate/
Know Your Rights Camp: https://www.knowyourrightscamp.com/legal