Community Power in the Face of Structural Violence
This is an excerpt from our platform, Pathways to Community Prosperity.
This policy platform was conceived and written in the context of 2020—a year that has tested our collective mettle with unprecedented job loss, climate instability, persistent racial unrest and an unimaginable number deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic. We also know that 2020 is not a standalone year in which random forces conspired to create racial injustices: This country is built on a long history of structural violence toward Black and Brown bodies.
The American Civil War did not end the enslavement of Black and Brown people. Slavery has evolved and been perpetuated through the over-criminalization of Black and Brown people be it through high profile efforts like the “War on Drugs” or even every day local policies such as jaywalking enforcement. More tragic is the systemic suppression, disenfranchisement and killing of Black and Brown people by increasingly militarized police who are supposed to protect and serve.
These years of systemic oppression by police came to a(nother) head early in 2020, with the state-sponsored murder of Breonna Taylor who was killed in a hail of bullets by police unlawfully entering her home and of George Floyd who suffocated to death by a police officer who mercilessly kneeled on his neck for 7 minutes and 46 seconds. The latter was filmed and distributed around the globe sparking outrage. It would ultimately bring about the largest movement in decades in support and solidarity for the humanity of Black lives in this country and defunding of a flawed police system.
Peaceful protestors gathered across this country repeating the phrase that George Floyd and Eric Garner before him uttered before their deaths by the hands of police – “I can’t breathe.” Unfortunately, this is a scene all too familiar for Black Americans. For centuries Black people have pleaded for the United States to get their knee off of the necks of Black people so that they too can seek life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Yet the brutality persists.
“To the poor, working class, the differently abled, the elderly, the disenfranchised, LGBTQ+, Black, Indigenous, Latino, Multi-racial, Asian, and Pacific Islander: we see you, you matter and we claim our right to breathe and our right to hold power.”
Police brutality is an ongoing crisis that plagues Black communities with minimal accountability for American police forces and minimal justice served for victims. In 2020 alone police killed 1,127 people—28 percent of those killed were Black, despite representing 13 percent of the population. Equally as troubling is only 1 percent of killings by police have resulted in criminal charges filed against police officers involved.
There is growing evidence linking police brutality rates to racial segregation. Researchers were able to correlate levels of segregation as the largest predictor of the ratio of police shootings of Black victims when compared to white victims. It is past time that we acknowledge the intersectionality of race, class, justice, and mass incarceration that has led us to this critical point. We can no longer ignore the obvious – we must reimagine policing in our communities in a way that truly serves and protects.
The injustices experienced by Black and Brown people from our corrupt police system are also replicated in nearly all essential services including basic systems for housing, medical care, equitable transportation, parks and open space, and a restorative economy that provides opportunity and a fair, livable wage.
With a renewed spirit and an undying sense of urgency we put forward this document to promote the liberation of the least of these and advocate for the most marginalized of our society.