Our hearts break as we mourn George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others who have been murdered by police. Sadly, we could fill this entire post with the names of Black Americans who have been murdered by law enforcement and still leave thousands unnamed.
Here in the progressive Pacific Northwest, there’s a tendency to think of this racist violence as something that’s a major problem - elsewhere. Sure, it’s a problem in the South, in very conservative areas, and certainly in the White House, but here in Washington? We voted for Barack Obama! We voted for I-940 to improve police accountability! Our neighbors have a Black Lives Matter sign in their yard!
The truth is that racism and police violence are just as big a problem here in Washington.
Seattle police officers murdered Charleena Lyles, a 30-year old pregnant Black woman, inside her home in front of her children three years ago this month. This happened only a few months after King County Detectives sprung out of an unmarked van and gunned down high school senior Mi’Chance Dunlap-Gittens, shooting him in the back as he fled in a case of mistaken identity. A year before that, Seattle police murdered Che Taylor in Wedgewood during a minor drug operation. And just two weeks ago, Seattle police shot and killed a Black man who was running away from them in Lower Queen Anne.
Yes, this is a problem right here in Washington.
At Fuse, we believe we must start this fight for justice by looking in the mirror. The reality is we can’t solve these problems unless white people - especially white progressives - take responsibility for undoing our personal racism and changing the systems that perpetuate it. As a predominantly white-led organization with a largely white membership, this includes Fuse.
The need for white progressives to join the fight for racial justice will never be clearer than it is right now. So we wanted to ask you to join us in demanding real change -- from each other and the system.
As white progressives, we must not use our racial privilege to treat police violence as just another political issue. White progressives don’t fear being shot by the police, don’t fear being pulled over for driving through a white neighborhood, and don’t fear being arrested for looking suspicious. What we must remember - and remind our friends and family about - is that this is not just another issue. For our Black friends, family, and neighbors, it’s a matter of life and death. Every day that white progressives continue treating this like just another issue is another day that Black Americans are killed by a system designed to do just that.
As white progressives, we can’t just blame this on Trump. He’s the racist in chief! He’s empowering and giving racist police permission to use violence! Unfortunately, state-sanctioned violence predated Trump and will continue long after him if white progressives don’t join this fight. America elected its first Black president and police proceeded to murder Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and countless others. Trump’s racism and divisiveness may make this worse, but he’s not the cause of police violence, and defeating him certainly won’t end it.
As white progressives, we can’t express support for racial justice but dwell on a broken window during a protest. We must stay focused on the real problem of police violence. We need to care more about Black lives than who broke a window at Nordstrom.
Intense protests and riots have been a hallmark of social change throughout history. From Stonewall to civil rights to ending the Vietnam War, systems of oppression rarely change politely. The state-sanctioned oppression, exploitation, and murder of Black people predate America itself, yet we’re still struggling to make change after 400 years. Can you blame folks for being angry?
We have a long history of activism in the Northwest. We marched shoulder-to-shoulder with 100,000 of you in the 2017 Women’s March, we carried banners with you during the Earth Day rally last year, and we called for justice with you on May Day. Now, we must bring the same intensity we feel for combating climate change and defeating Donald Trump to ending police violence.
We’re committed to using our platforms and resources to change hearts and minds as well as laws and institutions, and we’re asking you to join us. And for our members of color, we want you to know that we see you, we hear you, and we're redoubling our efforts to fight for change, both internally and externally.
Here are a few ways white progressives can make a difference right now.
There are two different organizations raising money to pay bail for those arrested during protests and other people who are unfairly jailed because of an inability to pay cash bail.
Northwest Community Bail Fund: https://www.nwcombailfund.org/
Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County Bail Fund: https://blacklivesseattle.org/bail-fund/
Learn and Share
There are countless great posts and articles for White progressives to read, learn, and share with their friends and families. Here are just a few:
How to Make This Moment the turning Point for Real Change, by Barack Obama: https://medium.com/@BarackObama/how-to-make-this-moment-the-turning-point-for-real-change-9fa209806067
5 Things White People Can Do Right Now by SURJ: https://medium.com/@surj_action/5-ways-white-people-can-take-action-in-response-to-white-and-state-sanctioned-violence-2bb907ba5277
The 1619 Project by The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/1619-america-slavery.html
Millions of Amy Coopers: https://www.thecut.com/2020/05/why-amy-cooper-called-the-cops.html
A Timeline of Events That Led to the 2020 “Fed-up” Rising: https://www.theroot.com/a-timeline-of-events-that-led-to-the-2020-fed-up-rising-1843780800
Dear White People, Your Black Colleagues Aren’t Okay: https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2020/05/9841376/black-trauma-george-floyd-dear-white-people
We Learned Violence From You: https://thegrio.com/2020/05/30/tamika-mallory-george-floyd-speech/