Protesters gather in Kenosha the second night of protests on August 24th, 2020. This was before the clashes with police later that night. (Photo by Isiah Holmes)
Tuesday was the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd. There was a wave of international protests. People said enough was enough. So with the unprecedented attention and uprisings, what did we get accomplished? What are we working towards?
This week Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’ task force on racial disparities is moving its recommendations through committee. The recommendations include things like putting police departments’ use-of-force policies online and keeping employee records. All decent ideas, but none of those things would have kept George Floyd and other victims of police violence alive.
Instead of merely putting use-of-force policies online, I want to live in a world where there is no use of force at all. Drug testing officers sounds good but it’s not solving the actual problem. The task force recommendations include more school resource officers. Time and time again our young people and organizations like Leaders Igniting Transformation have said we don’t need more school resource officers or security guards; students want things like more guidance counselors.
Some of these bills also include more funding to police. After a year of mainstream conversations around divesting from the police department, legislators are doing the exact opposite in the name of reform. How quickly we forgot what our communities were demanding last year. Many wanted to be good allies and picked up books to learn about how to show up in this moment. Now is the time to show up.
I’m sure some legislators on the task force entered this with the best intentions, but honestly, their recommendations make a mockery of our pain and trauma. If people are serious about racial equity, then the current crop of policing bills, which contain some of the task force’s 18 recommendations, should not pass nor should they be signed.
This is an opportunity to dream and create a world that has never existed. We dream at times to escape the trauma of our daily lives. We know what thriving communities look like, we dream about them often. The Legislature’s proposals don’t allow us to move to making our dreams of thriving a reality. They are an attempt to placate the years of organizing we have done. We didn’t come this far to only come this far.
We are calling on all representatives to vote against the package of policing bills that are before them this week, and we are calling on Gov. Tony Evers not to sign them in the event they do pass. It’s OK to say let’s try again. We understand that these conversations are very new for some folks, but we need to give these solutions the time and energy they truly deserve, not a rushed package so people can be done with the tough conversations.
This is our opportunity to be serious about real solutions. Giving underserved communities scraps is just unacceptable at this point. We’ve raised the bar. If we have the freedom and the creativity to dream, then why can’t our legislators? We can do better than the bills if we try, but we have to want to try. We can’t forget the feelings that were stirred up in the pit of our stomach when we heard of Breonna Taylor being murdered in her bed, or watching George Floyd take his last breath after over 9 minutes of a knee to the neck. We need to meet this moment with both grace and determination to move this community forward.
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