Over the past several weeks, the gross miscarriage of justice in the brutal police killing of George Floyd moved tens of thousands of non-violent protesters across Tennessee to express their moral outrage. George Floyd joins the growing list of victims of senseless, racist police killings – Breonna Taylor, Daniel Hambrick, Darrius Stewart, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, Michael Brown – the list goes on and on.
These powerful protests highlight the outrage over the enduring and deep-rooted problem of racist policing and structural racism in the United States. Data consistently show people of color are stopped and searched by police at disparate rates, disproportionately arrested for low-level offenses, and our state still incarcerates Black men at a higher rate than people of other racial and ethnic groups. And we are keenly aware that COVID-19 hurts Black and Brown residents at disproportionate rates, revealing the systemic lack of access to health care.
It is time to fundamentally reimagine the role police play in our society, and that role has to be smaller, more circumscribed, and less funded with tax-payer dollars. This massive shift will not only reduce the misguided, harmful abuse and harassment of impacted communities by police, but also allow for the money saved to be reinvested into community-based services, resources, and alternatives to policing that are best suited to responding to actual community needs. To that end, ACLU is a signatory to a letter by Movement for Black Lives calling for divestment from police and reinvestment in communities. We have also called for a reimagining of policing in Nashville, beginning with the resignation of current Police Chief Steve Anderson. And this is just the beginning.
Amid this national reckoning, it’s on all of us to confront and combat the institutionalized racism and white supremacy that pervade every aspect of our society and take a devastating toll on our communities. Here are some ways you can take action now, here in Tennessee:
- Divest, Reinvest. We are joined in solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives in calling for divestment from police, and reinvestment in communities targeted by police. Sign the petition.
- Volunteer. We need passionate volunteers to help protect civil rights and civil liberties in our state. To volunteer, fill out our volunteer form.
- Support Black-led, grassroots groups working toward systemic change, such as local Black Lives Matter chapters, Gideon’s Army, Free Hearts and Tennessee’s community bail funds.
- Know your right to protest. If you are hitting the streets to take a stand against racism, check out this 2-minute video on how to protest safely.
It is on all of us to fight for a world in which being Black in America isn’t a death sentence. We appreciate everyone staying in the fight for Black lives and we continue to stand with you.