Updated: Feb 2
The Bloody Summer of 2020, the mob that stormed the Capitol, defunding the police, and more.
"History doesn't repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme."
During the red summer of 1919, cities across America were plagued by unrest when white mobs continuously incited brutality against Black people. During this time, communities were still fighting a third wave of the pandemic known as the Spanish flu. Sound familiar? This period shows uncanny resemblance to this past summer, which The Justice Beat Talk Show refers to as the Bloody Summer of 2020. The Black Lives Matter movement coupled with the effects of COVID-19, which has disproportionately affected Black communities, only means that the struggle for civil rights is as fervent as ever. How could this be?
The Mob That Stormed the Capitol
On the evening of January 5, 2021, a group of (ex) President Trump's supporters gathered in Washington D.C. for a "rally to save America." Speakers told conspiracy stories about how the election was stolen and named their enemies: Democrats, weak Republicans, Communists, and Satanists. Around noon the following day, President Trump addressed the group with words that left many Americans speechless. "You'll never take back our country with weakness," he proclaimed, "You have to show strength and you have to be strong." Before his speech concluded, the group began to move east toward the Capitol. The mob broke into and vandalized the building. Tear gas and gunfire were involved leaving one woman and one officer dead.
From 1963 to 2020, we are still having the same conversation about racial injustice.
"Today I want to say to the people of America and the nations of the world that we are not about to turn around. We are on the move now, yes, we are on the move and no wave of racism can stop us."
"I know you're asking today how long will it take. Somebody's asking how long will prejudice blind the visions of men. I come to say to you this afternoon, however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long."
"Somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for rights."
These powerful words from Martin Luther King Jr. are sadly just as applicable today as they were in 1963 when he first spoke them. While we have made undeniable progress towards achieving equality, systemic racism still echoes in the words and actions of many American citizens and institutions. The harsh political climate we are living in today has sparked many necessary and long overdue conversations about race and injustice, but has simultaneously left our nation more divided than ever. Tensions are so high that it seems virtually impossible to engage in productive dialogue about relevant topics, especially with those whose opinions differ from ours. This has left many friendships and familial relationships strained and fractured. Below is a list of resources for educating friends and family members on such sensitive matters.
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness - Michelle Alexander
Ain't I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism - Bell Hooks
Between the World and Me - Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Autobiography of Malcolm X - Malcolm X
White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism - Robin DiAngelo
Sister Outsider - Audre Lorde
White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide - Carol Anderson
TV Shows & Films
When They See Us (Netflix)
Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement (BET)
Selma (available to rent)
I Am Not Your Negro (Netflix)
The Force (Netflix)
Defunding the Police - What Does it Really Mean?
There are many misconceptions about the phrase "defund the police." Listen to Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as she explains what it really means, what it doesn't, and how we can go about it. Below are some of the most common misconceptions that are held about this phrase and explanations as to why they are untrue.
Abolish the police? But how would we stay safe?
Police abolition work is not about defunding every department instantly. It's about a gradual process of strategically reallocating resources, funding, and responsibility away from police and toward community-based models of safety, support, and prevention.
But what about armed bank robbers, murderers, and supervillains?
Crime isn't random. Most of the time, it happens when someone has been unable to meet their basic needs through other means. By shifting money away from the police and toward services that actually meet those needs, we'll be able to get to a place where people won't need to rob banks. To really "fight crime," we don't need more cops; we need more jobs, more educational opportunities, more arts programs, more community centers, more mental health resources, and more of a say in how our own communities function.
But why not fund the police and these alternatives too? Why is it an either/or?
It's not just that police are ineffective: in many communities, they're actually harmful. The history of policing is a history of violence against the marginalized. And it's bigger than just police brutality; it's about how the prison industrial complex, the drug war, immigration law, and the web of policy, law, and culture that forms our criminal justice system has destroyed millions of lives, and torn apart families. Cops don't prevent crime; they cause it, through the ongoing, violent disruption of our communities.
What about reforms like body cameras, civilian review boards, implicit bias training, and community policing alternatives?
Video footage (whether from body cameras or other sources) wasn't enough to get justice for Philando Castile, Samuel DuBose, Walter Scott, Tamir Rice, and far too many other victims of police violence. Other reforms, while often noble in intention, simply do not do enough to get to the root of the issue.
This all sounds good in theory, but wouldn't it be impossible to do?
Throughout US history, everyday people have regularly accomplished "impossible" things, from the abolition of slavery to voting rights. What's really impossible is the idea that the police departments can be reformed against their will to protect and serve communities whom they have always attacked. The police, as an institution around the world, have existed for less than 200 years - less time than chattel slavery existed in the Americas. Abolishing the police doesn't need to be difficult - we can do it in our own cities, one dollar at a time, through redirecting budgets to common-sense alternative programs.