Dear Friends of Hallie Q. Brown:
Yesterday, another Black man was killed by law enforcement officers during an encounter over a minor offense. I say another, because we haven’t even gotten halfway through the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, we haven’t arrested the killer of Breonna Taylor, we’re still recovering from the death of Philando Castile. Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than White people and even though we were only 13% of the population, we accounted for 28% of the people killed by police in 2020.
I want to tell you that it’s going to be okay, that justice is coming, that the world has changed and we just need to have faith and hold on, but I can’t. I can’t do this because there is an epidemic in this country, a sickness, an addiction to killing Black people and nothing we have done so far has been able to change that. We’ve marched, we’ve protested, there’s been civil unrest, we’ve brought people across the world together, in unity, under the banner that Black lives matter, and still a Black person is shot and killed because of expired tabs.
There are many good people in law enforcement: people who care about justice, who believe in protecting and serving the community. They get up every day and put their lives at risk in order to protect and serve. I work with and respect these people, but even they know that there is something fundamentally wrong with a system where selling illegal cigarettes, passing a counterfeit $20 bill, or having expired tabs ends in a death sentence handed down by someone charged with enforcing the law, not determining it.
Daunte Wright was 20 years old and he had his whole life ahead of him. I don’t seek to canonize or vilify him, just to raise the point that regardless of anything else in his life, he did not need to die. And whether this was an accident or anger, it is still another Black man killed in the street by someone we are expected to respect, to place our trust in, to believe has our safety and wellbeing in mind. A belief that we have paid dearly for, time after time after time as the trust has been continually betrayed.
There is something profoundly wrong within our system of law enforcement and justice, and at its core is the same age-old issue that sits at the base of all our major crises, systemic racism. The same systemic racism that gave birth to the police as runaway slave catchers, that formed the Klu Klux Klan to protect White people, that developed the homeownership disparity and poverty inequities, that has led to a city where police killed Black people at 22 times the rate of White people (Minneapolis 2013-2020).
We have to end this. We have to change this. We need an intervention.
We need law enforcement to recognize this as a law enforcement problem that they need to fix rather than a community problem we need to address. We need White people to recognize systemic racism as an issue they need to own and address instead of expecting Black people to adjust and endure. We need elected officials and government to stop ratifying racist legislation and start empowering efforts that truly embody a government by the people, for the people and of the people.
And Black and brown people? We need you to stay alive while all this happens.
I am tired of marching, of waiting, or hoping for change. I’m tired of having the same old conversation. I’m tired of having to constantly prove that this really is an issue. But most of all, I’m tired of Black people getting killed by the police and White supremacists.
If Black lives really do matter, if we do believe in justice, then we’re past the time for rhetoric and well into the time for action. Now, right now, is when the world has to change. And it is up to us to make that happen.
Executive Director, Hallie Q. Brown Community Center