Dear Neighborhood House,
Like many of you, I watched in horror and disgust how yet another unarmed Black person was killed by a police officer. George Floyd’s murder on May 25, 2020, in Minneapolis, MN comes on the heels of Breonna Taylor’s death in Louisville, KY on May 13, 2020, shot by police officers with a “no knock” warrant, and Ahmaud Arbery’s death of South Georgia on February 23, 2020, shot by vigilantes with ties to the police and prosecutor’s office. As if this wasn’t enough tragedy, on June 1, 2020, David McAtee, Louisville barbecue store owner was shot and killed by police who were not wearing or had not activated their body cameras. Last Wednesday, Tony McDade, a Black transgender man was shot and killed by police on May 27, 2020, in Tallahasee, Florida.
We share the pain, frustration, and anger the Black community and many of us feel towards the injustice against Black people. Despite citizen complaints, consent decrees, and oversight, the criminal justice system continues to perpetuate racism, excessive use of force, and violence against Black people. The viral videos of the murders of two Black men ignited an explosive and collective outcry.
For centuries, enslaved Africans were the economic engine for white America’s prosperity. After the emancipation of slaves, institutional racism and Jim Crow laws systemically kept African Americans and other people of color poor. Red-lining, racial discrimination, mass incarceration, over policing Black neighborhoods, biased portrayals of Black people in the movies, TV, news media, books and advertising perpetuated anti-Blackness. Anti-Blackness is what led to the deaths of countless Black people from Emmett Till in 1955 to the modern day lynching of Ahmaud Arbery in 2020.
So where do we go from here?
Grieve – We join a community grieving the overwhelmingly tragic loss of life of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, David McAtee and Tony McDade and condemn the racism and violence against them and so many other Black people and people of color. Their deaths add to the grief and outrage at the loss of so many others; those we remember, and those we whose names are unknown to us because there isn’t cell phone video documentation.
Learn – As an Asian American, I am committed to learning more about racism and how my actions and beliefs perpetuate injustice. We can all commit to learning more so that we can disrupt racism, starting early by talking about race with kids, learning how to be a White ally, trying to understand how our friends and colleagues in the Black community may be feeling, and learning about and advocating for improved policing.
Act – We commit to work towards dismantling the racist systems that contributed to their deaths and perpetuate the systemic exclusion of Black people and other people of color from freedom, safety and economic opportunity. Join us by supporting groups working to end biased policing like Black Lives Matter Seattle, and joining with the community of friends and relatives seeking justice for Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery. In an impassioned plea to the residents of Atlanta for non-violence, activist, actor, and artist Killer Mike called on us to join together to “plot, plan, strategize, organize, and mobilize.” He implored us to be counted, fill out our census, to register to vote, and to elect leaders that are committed to changing the system.
The racism that has been exposed by these killings increase the urgency of our work. Daily, the staff of Neighborhood House witness first-hand the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 and the massive economic catastrophe. We are on the front lines of this crisis, helping people meet their basic needs to survive and thrive. But we would not be fulfilling our mission if we did not work to end the racist systems that cause people to live in poverty. Confronting, disrupting, and dismantling these systems takes the courage and actions of all of us working together. This statement is a small step to stand in solidarity with Black people, people of color, and all marginalized communities for true justice. #BlackLivesMatter #saytheirnames #JusticeForBre #iRunWithMaud
In solidarity and in sorrow,
Janice Deguchi (she/her/hers)