Organizers and protesters in Louisville and across the country are expressing outrage in response to the grand jury verdict bringing no charges against the officers who murdered Breonna Taylor in her own home on March 13, 2020. The historic refrain woven through these and other recent protests, “No justice, no peace,” still seems to be lost on many Americans as they focus their critique on the protestors instead of the injustice. I find myself wondering how any reasonable American could expect anything other than the protests we’re seeing. America, which part of “No justice, no peace” do you not understand?
Peace is not a reasonable expectation when racism continues to be a public health threat to our black and brown community members and nothing is done about it. Peace is not a reasonable expectation when the very people paid to protect and serve abuse their power, recklessly endanger others, and commit murder with impunity. Peace is not a reasonable expectation when the government continues to fund a system of terror strategically directed at communities of color — a system that originated for the sole purpose of terrorizing the enslaved.
In 2019, there were 1,004 fatal police shootings. There were only 27 days in the entire 2019 calendar year during which police did not kill someone. So far police have killed 781 people in 2020, and we still have a few months to go. Black people are three times more likely to get killed by police than white people, and about 17 percent of the black people who died as a result of police harm were unarmed. Black victims of police murder are more likely to be unarmed than white victims. Ninety-nine percent of killings by police from 2013-2019 have not resulted in officers being charged with a crime (for more information visit Mapping Police Violence). These data make clear that the failure of police departments across the nation to protect our black community from the abuse and misuse of police power is nothing short of criminal.
“No justice, no peace” means that until there is accountability for the chronic abuse of power by police officers and state sanctioned violence against citizens, there will be no peace. “No justice, no peace” means that until there is reform that prevents the devaluation and dehumanization of black lives at the hands of the police, and appropriate punishment for those who act recklessly, there will be no peace. “No justice, no peace” means that until there is acknowledgement of the white supremacy ideology that poisons our criminal, legal, and justice systems, there will be no peace. None.
The ideology of white supremacy against which we are fighting is deeply entrenched and pervasive, and any expectation to dismantle it requires that we shift from wishes for peaceful protest to dismantling that which warrants protest in the first place. It requires that we shift from blaming the reasonable reactions of the oppressed to targeting the oppressors and oppressive systems. It requires that we listen and meet the demands of the victims, and stop defending the assailants.
The demands are:
• Immediately fire and revoke the pensions of the officers that murdered Breonna.
• Divest from LMPD and Invest in community building
• Immediate resignation (or impeachment) of Mayor Greg Fisher
• Metro Council ends use of force by Louisville Metro Police Department.
• Police shootings are gun violence.
• A local, civilian community police accountability council that is independent from the Mayor’s Office and LMPD with investigation and discipline power #CPAC.
• The creation of policy to ensure transparent investigation processes
Learn more at justiceforbreonna.org.
Perhaps you’re among the outraged. That’s a start. But know this: the battle against racism and racial injustice will not be won with temporary reactions that subside once the news cycle turns over. It will not be won with one-time donations and temporary feelings of outrage, or even continuous feelings of guilt. What long-term commitments are you ready to make in order to become part of the solution? Consider these:
Match your outrage with action. Get involved, particularly if you have white racial privilege which affords you unearned credibility, safety, and power. Our black community members and organizers in Santa Barbara are working tirelessly, and they are exhausted. Don’t just support their work- carry some of the burden. Go to sbsurj.weebly.com to learn how.
Become informed about and support The BREATHE Act. Learn more at breatheact.org.
Use this Toolkit from SURJ for calling in white folks who are using harmful narratives around protest “violence:” https://tinyurl.com/SURJTools.
Finally, if you are a white member of our community, listen to and believe the voices and experiences of black people, refrain from thinking you understand, and cease telling black people how to feel, protest, or mourn. Join the movement to support, honor, and echo the voices of black Americans here in Santa Barbara and across the nation as they demand justice. The time is now. Everyone is welcome and everyone is needed.
Carrie Hutchinson is the co-founder of Showing Up for Racial Justice, Santa Barbara, a local branch of the national network of groups and individuals working to undermine white supremacy and to work toward racial justice.