By Lidya Woldeyesus
In 2019, the police murdered 1,098 people in the United States. The data shows that Black people are 3x more likely to be killed than White people. In my home city of D.C, in 2018, 90% of the subjects of excessive use of force were Black. 90%. It’s important to note that the percentage of White vs Black officers who executed these attacks were nearly equivalent. These statistics, especially the last one, support the understanding of policing as an institution, just a ‘few bad apples.’ Policing in the United States was founded as a child of White supremacy designed to oppress not protect.
Whilst I’m optimistic and energized by the current moment, triggered by the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, I keep asking myself, “where have all of you been?” For many community organizers, including myself, that have been a part of the Black Lives Matter movement for years, it is frustrating to see this newfound awareness by white people. BLM’s co-founder, Patrisse Khan-Cullors titled her book, When They Call You a Terrorist, referencing the FBI’s “black identity extremism,” report prepared by the Domestic Terrorism Analysis Unit. This is just like the Civil Rights’ leaders who were investigated, wiretapped, and viewed as terrorists by the FBI. We cannot support the livelihood of Black people only when it’s convenient and this should no longer be a fight solely fought by Black individuals. Black Lives Matter. Black Trans Lives Matter.
Higher education is also an institution that actively perpetuates White supremacy. To the faculty and the administration, do better by your students. All departments should be actively engaging in anti-racist actions and teaching.
As the student chair of JumboVote, I would be remiss to not talk about elections. Local politics matter. The last month has shown us that. Portland, Minneapolis, Seattle, Denver, and Oakland, for example, have all terminated their contracts with police departments to provide school resource officers (SRO’s). This decision will undeniably begin to breakdown the school to prison pipeline in these cities. For those of you who have been showing up at your town halls, community forums, and city government meetings, keep it up. They are folding under the pressure. This moment is too big to contain. As alumnae, Professor Christina Greer of Fordham University says, we have “CVS-long receipts” of state-sanctioned violence. Black people have politely asked, cried, prayed, and pleaded for our liberation, and now a moment of reckoning has seemed to arrive. I understand that not many people are excited about the top of the ticket this November, especially young people, but let’s not forget about the rest of the ticket. The offices that can make the decision to defund, demilitarize, and reimagine what law enforcement can look like in the United States of America.