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"Black Lives Matter" and the Push for Reform

From the first tweet of #blacklivesmatter after the death of Michael Brown Jr. in Ferguson, Missouri, in August last year, three words have become a rallying cry.

The violent deaths of Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Ezell Ford, Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Eric Garner, the nine victims of the shooting at Emanuel AME in Charleston, and countless others can no longer be ignored, rationalized, or dismissed.

Black Lives Matter represents a renewed civil-rights movement driven by activists asserting their voices and demanding equality, justice, and systemic reform. It rises from the depths of frustration within the black community whose collective experience is of discrimination and injustice from the very system that should be ensuring public safety and justice for all.

Millions of other Americans have seen the scales of ignorance, naiveté, and indifference fall from their eyes with each incident, each video, each name.

Solidarity in itself is important – and essential – but not enough. While our country continues to grapple with larger social and cultural issues related to race, we urgently need to advocate for policies that will make “Black Lives Matter” more than just words.

These examples compiled by Campaign Zero would go a long way at the local, state, and federal levels:

  • An end to the “broken windows” policing of minor crimes and activities, including enforceable protections against profiling and “stop and frisk”
  • Effective and independent civilian oversight structures
  • Limits to the use of force, including de-escalation, less-lethal weapons, and minimal levels of force for nonthreatening forms of resistance
  • Demographic representation in police forces to reflect the diversity of the communities they serve
  • Mandatory body cameras
  • Expanded training to help officers interact effectively with communities
  • An end to for-profit policing that incentivizes ticketing and incarceration

The California Democratic Party passed a resolution at its recent Executive Board meeting to support the Black Lives Matter movement, community meetings, and peaceful demonstrations.

In keeping with that support, the San Diego County Democratic Party invites you to join the San Diego NAACP in the America’s Journey for Justice March next Wednesday, September 16.  The march will coincide with the final stop of America’s Journey for Justice, an 860-mile procession through five states that started on August 1 in Selma, Alabama, and will conclude in Washington, D.C., where  Assemblymember Shirley Weber will represent San Diego.

The San Diego event will begin at San Diego City Hall (202 C St.) at 4:30 p.m., with a one-mile march to the County Administration Building for a rally with community leaders and elected officials (more details here).  

Of course, the conversation must and will continue. Black Lives Matter activists have used recent appearances of Democratic presidential candidates as opportunities to shape the public debate.  

Their point was clear: We will not let you ignore the consequences of violence and racism. We will not support you until you acknowledge the inequity and injustice that persist in America. We will not support you until we hear your plans for reform. 

Their message was not just addressed to the candidates. It was for all of us. Now it’s time to look inward and ask what we can do to help heal the wounds of racism – and form a more perfect union by reforming our imperfect system of justice.