To be silent is to be complicit
Black people in America live in a world where they must be hypervigilant for their own safety, where the police are not always their friends and protectors. Read the facts about black people and the police. While black people make up 13.2% of our country’s population, researchers find that they account for 28.9 percent of arrestees nationwide, as well as 24% of those killed by police.
And, while some of this disproportionate number of killings may be accounted for by racial bias, it is more likely that the race problem revealed by the statistics reflects a larger problem: the structure of our society, our laws and policies. That would explain why almost 30 percent of reported offenders were black, and why police are most active in poor neighborhoods, where a disproportionate percentage of black people live in poverty.
So, as a people called to love our neighbors, what can we do? We can work to change the system, the laws, the policies. We can listen, learn and act. We can speak out. We should not be complicit by our silence.
Here are 6 ways to speak out now.
- Watch these videos to hear first- hand accounts of what our black brothers and sisters live. Then read every-day people’s experiences through the hashtag #realizediwasblack. Share these stories with others.
- Talk to the white people you know who aren’t clearly upset by white supremacy. Use “I” statements and “I care” messages (“I feel [feeling] when you [behavior]”). They need to know you see a problem. Call them out, and call them in. As a start, ask them to watch the videos referenced above, or to watch black movies, TV, and other media that show POC as lead characters and in their full humanity.
- More and more stories of black folks encountering racism are being documented— whether it’s at a hotel, with the police, in a coffee shop, at a school, etc. When you see such a post, call the organization, company, or institution involved to tell them how upset you are. Encourage others to contact the institution as well.
- Raise your voice against racism by exercising your right to vote and make sure that all your like-minded friends vote, too.
- Sign a petition such as The NAACP’s petition to get justice for George Floyd, or the Black Lives Matter petition to spend less of our tax dollars on police and more on programs to end systemic/institutional racism.
- Donate, if you have extra funds, to organizations working towards ending systematic racism.
- The Black Llives Matter Seattle Freedom Fund to go to the immediate release of people protesting the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Manuel Ellis (May 2020). Any remaining funds will continue to be used for future bailout efforts as an ongoing community bail fund project..
- Campaign Zero which is dedicated to ending police brutality in America through research-based strategies.
- Color of Change which works to move decision makers in corporations and government to be more responsive to racial disparities.
- Equal Justice Initiative which provides legal services to people who have been wrongly convicted, denied a fair trial, or abused in state jails and prisons.
What is the difference?
- An inclusive person believes that what is inside a person is more important than their skin color. Someone who is anti-racist, or actively working against racism, understands and talks about the many ways our skin color affects how people treat us, the choices and opportunities we have, and the lived experiences of people of color.
- An inclusive person watches movies and reads books featuring people of color. Someone working against racism uses those same movies and books to discuss examples of racism and stereotypes with their associates and seeks out media that is produced for and by people of color.
- An inclusive person might talk about privilege and what that means. Someone working against racism is constantly aware of their own privilege and recognizes that white people participate, often unknowingly, in racism.
We all pride ourselves on being inclusive, loving everyone. But being inclusive is no longer enough. We need to work against racism, against discrimination, and against the systems and institutions that continue the imbalances of power and authority that exist today. To be anti-racist is to uphold our Methodist baptismal vows to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.
I am not racist
All of us try hard to not be racist. We say the right things, we read the right books, we support the right causes. But that is not being anti-racist. Being anti-racist is not about the individual, but about working against the systems and institutions of our society that exclude people of color from full and equitable participation. We’re not talking about Black people not being able to use the public pool. That’s racist. We’re talking about a society in which the median net worth for a White family is $134,000, but the median net worth for a Black family is $11,000, where Black unemployment numbers are always at least twice that of White unemployment numbers. Need more examples or a better explanation? Here is a great 7-minute video that explains and provides examples of systemic racism. It’s worth watching and sharing,
Becoming anti-racist is our responsibility.
There are many resources
available for those who wish to learn more about anti-racism. Here is a curated
list of resources to get you started that includes articles online, books,
podcasts, tv shows and movies, groups and people to follow, all of which will
help you to become more anti-racist.
Read, watch or listen to something, then talk to your friends and
family. Share information. Educate others.
Speak up. Work toward justice. Recognize
your privilege. Resist oppression in
How to be an Anti-Racist: Language is
The words you choose can comfort or wound, express your values or misrepresent your meaning, enable a move forward or close off the future. Many phrases we use commonly have racist origins: "Hip, hip, hooray!" "To be gyped." "The peanut gallery." "Long time, no see." "Grandfather in." But the need to use the correct word goes further than idioms. The words we use can open our eyes to systemic racism (systems and structures that have procedures or processes that disadvantage POC). Here are some anti-racism examples shared at our weekly Read and Share.
- * People who were kidnapped and forced to serve others might better be referred to as ENSLAVED people, rather than SLAVES. Inhumane acts were carried out on the people of Africa. Enslaved peoples deserve more than a passive noun to describe that experience.
- * Many outcomes that are blamed on RACE are really a result of RACISM: Black people have asthma more commonly. This is not because of their race, but rather because they more often live by toxin-producing factories. Black women die more often in childbirth. This is not because of their race, but rather because of the quality of the health care they receive.
- * We often refer to DISPARITIES between People of Color (POC) and white people which are actually INEQUITIES. The lower quality education that most POC receive is not because of a difference possibly due to discrimination. The lower quality education that most POC receive is because of an inequity - an avoidable and unjust difference such as redlining, gerrymandering, etc.
A friend once explained to me that it is important to first listen to
others about a social justice issue, to then learn more about that issue, and
then to do something, to take action, to make the world more just. Those
words came back to me soon after.
Soon after George Floyd was murdered by police, my 19-year-old daughter Delaney angrily expressed her opinion that the only solution to police brutality was to get rid of all cops and to defund the police, Whoa! I was pretty sure she'd been on Instagram too much and was being naive, feeling so sure of herself and the answers to systemic police brutality, not really looking at the whole picture.
But you know what? I listened and this is what I learned about our system of law enforcement and racism (systemic racism).
- Police nationwide have shot and killed almost the same number of people every year — nearly 1,000 — since 2015, in spite of all the protests and the changes that have occurred since Ferguson in 2014.
- Black Americans are shot at a disproportionate rate. Researchers find that although they account for less than 13 percent of the U.S. population, they are killed by police at more than twice the rate of white Americans.
- Studies show that more militarized police departments are significantly more likely to kill civilians.
- Only one in every 12 complaints of police misconduct nationwide results in some kind of disciplinary action against the officer(s) responsible.
- Most police officers that are fired for misconduct are rehired by the same department or another law enforcement department. Studies find that 46% of them are rehired by the same department.
- To be tried for misconduct in a criminal court, prosecutors have to prosecute the very people they rely on for witnesses, investigations, and evidence collection. Thus, criminal trials happen infrequently in these cases.
- Police unions take care of their members, as all unions do, but in this case, they shield officers from the consequences of their actions, even if they involve murder Law enforcement departments that are unionized have a 40% increase in violent misconduct.
- Police officers are often indemnified by their community so that when they are found to have been guilty of violent misconduct, they pay the monetary judgment only 1% of the time. The rest of the time it is paid by the taxpayer and/or an insurance company policy.
- Evidence shows that less policing can lead to less crime. A 2017 report, which focused on several weeks in 2014 through 2015 when the New York Police Department purposely pulled back on "proactive policing," found that there were 2,100 fewer crime complaints during that time.
- Body cameras and anti-implicit-bias and other anti-discrimination training have not worked well in decreasing police shootings, according to researchers. (See #1 above)..
Alright. I was convinced that something needs to
change. so I learned more about this whole idea of defunding the police.
How would defunding the police solve these issues? What exactly does
"defunding" mean? What things would have to change?
Turns out defunding usually means the reallocation of some funds from police departments to social services and the reduction of police interaction with the public, Reallocating funds would mean that rather than "strangers armed with guns," first responders would be mental health providers, social workers, victim advocates, and other community members for the 95% of all 911 calls that do not involve violent crime. Reallocation can also mean that more money is budgeted for education, healthcare, and other support services. These are some of the goals of the Black Lives Matter movement: an entirely different model of community-led public safety, with community oversight that is demilitarized. and responsive to community needs.
Turns out my daughter wasn't so crazy after all, so we've talked some more. I've taught her what I learned and she continues to teach me new ideas. We even participated in a protest together!
If you want to learn more and be able to discuss these issues with others, here are a few good resources. Come to the Thursday Anti-Racism Read and Share (see below), too! You never know what you'll learn!
- 8can'twait.com the 8 policies that cities can adopt, that if enacted will decrease police brutality by 72%.
- Campaign Zero which integrates recommendations from communities, research organizations and the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing, into a set of 10 policy recommendations which aim to protect and preserve life
- Information on defunding the police and a global petition to sign from Black Lives Matter.
- The Atlantic magazine's article "How to Actually Fix America's Police" by two law professors and an ex-Chief of Police, which starts at the federal level and moves on down to the local level.
- DeRay McKesson, an educator, author, civil rights activist and a leading voice in the Black Lives Matter movement, interviewing John Rappaport, a law professor and research scholar examining criminal procedures in the justice system on a Pod Save the People podcast
- CNN's article on what it mean's to defund the police.
- The researchers at the Washington Post and their Police Shootings Database.
- The End of Policing, a new book by Alex S. Vitale, a professor of Sociology and longtime civil rights activist.