Today we are grieving the life of yet another Black man killed by police — Rayshard Brooks, who was shot in the back by Atlanta police on Friday night.
His killing, alongside the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Sean Reed, Yassin Mohamed, Ahmaud Arbery and too many others, all by police or vigilantes, has further exposed white supremacy’s grip on our nation, including our systems of policing and prosecutorial enforcement.
We at the Southern Poverty Law Center stand with the millions of people around the world who are outraged by centuries of injustice and violence against Black people in this country. I share their anger, grief and great frustration at the never-ending litany of injustice.
This moment demands that we, as a nation, radically reimagine the interconnected systems of education, voting, labor and justice to eradicate deeply rooted oppression and anti-Black racism. We are eager to learn, share and join in the conversation on reimagining what our policing and prosecutorial structures could be if we started with a commitment to equity and justice for all.
Policing is an immediate and critical example of how systemic white supremacy continues to be a lethal threat to Black lives. The SPLC has exposed — and will continue to call out — the danger of white supremacy, hatred and acts of violent extremism for nearly 50 years, including acts of violence against Black people perpetrated by the police.
Today’s crimes by police against Black people are rooted in our nation’s shameful history. Our systems of policing were born from slavery and designed to control Black people and other people of color. The criminal justice and policing systems are tools of white supremacy in design and practice — a weaponization of law enforcement to maintain control over certain communities while protecting others’ advantages.
Immense injustice has brought forward immense pain — it has also catalysed action and a long overdue nationwide reckoning. Protesters and activists across the country have seized this moment to push transformative reforms with a newly awakened public. Massive marches and demonstrations have amplified the voices of Black activists who have been pushing for justice for years, and made clear the vast potential for change.
Now it is up to each of us to commit to righting the wrongs against the Black community. This time requires deep personal reflection on how each of us will take direct action to address anti-Black racism.
The SPLC stands united with movement leaders and our partners, especially in the Deep South, as we reaffirm our commitment to exposing and fighting white supremacy and work to build new systems of justice and a more equitable future for all. While this work will continue over the next several months and years, we have already taken some important steps:
- We have initiated discussions with local elected officials and police chiefs in our five states of the South (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi) to begin discussing ways we can work to change policing.
- The SPLC Action Fund, our 501(c)(4) sister organization, is looking at district attorney races to engage in this fall where prosecutors have allowed police violence to go unchecked.
- We continue advocating for the removal of more than 1,700 Confederate monuments and symbols across the country and providing information about their history to thought leaders, lawmakers and journalists.
- We sent letters calling on the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Army, the secretary of the Air Force, the commandant of the Coast Guard and the chief of the National Guard Bureau to ban Confederate flags from their bases and installations around the world amid bans by the Marines and Navy.
- We are hosting a Juneteenth vigil on June 19 at 3 p.m. CDT at the Civil Rights Memorial Center in Montgomery, Alabama, to honor the 300 Black people killed and 10,000 people left homeless by the Black Wall Street massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1921.
- We are organizing a Twitter storm to educate people about Black Wall Street and Juneteenth during President Trump’s planned speech in Tulsa the day after Juneteenth on June 20.
- Our Teaching Tolerance program is sharing resources to help teachers, children and families better understand structural racism and its impact in the U.S.
- We have committed to anti-racism training across the organization, starting with our leadership team, and we are engaging with organizers, activists, scholars and community members in ongoing learning in order to build a culture that supports Black leadership and other people of color.
- We are continuing to fight voter suppression and racial gerrymandering that intentionally targets Black voters.
Never has our work been more urgently needed, as the entire country (and world) is focused on structural racism and its impact in the United States. Our energies will continue to be directed at dismantling structural oppression, and working to silence the extremists, hate groups and racists who are desperately trying to hold onto power.
Each of us has an opportunity to show up differently in this moment of national reckoning. The SPLC stands united with you and all of our supporters as we recommit ourselves to fighting all forms of racism and envisioning new systems of justice and a more equitable future for all.
Photo by Dustin Chamber / Getty Images