Author: Louie Jean (Data Lead)
The push to ensure that Black people are treated like everybody else is what the Black Lives Matter movement represents. However, equalizing the playing field means distributing power and that is threatening to the current status quo. Many people, White supremacists included, do not want to see the redistribution of power -- making equity difficult. But equity is attainable, the collective voices of those who stand in solidarity with the cause and the progression of Black lives are a force for change.
The way that police are policing people of a certain standing in society tells us about how Americans, law enforcement and society views that life. Apart from the context of entertainment and culture Black lives do not matter. An example of when the life of a Black person was considered of no value is when George Zimmerman, a vigilante, was acquitted for the killing of 17 year old Trayvon Martin because he was seen as a threat. Patrisse Cullors shared that her frustration over Zimmerman's acquittal was a reason to co-found the Black Lives Matters Movement. Seven years later, when Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, is shot seven times in the back in front of his three children, by a white police officer -- it becomes apparent that people belonging to certain racial groups are targeted and excessively antagonized to a point where as a society we’re forced to reexamine the question of fairness.
The declaration of independence makes mention of fairness: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” Put another way, the role of government is to ensure that everyone's god given rights are protected. When the government falls short of this responsibility its citizens have every right to challenge the status quo.
Today's status quo is that it is okay for law enforcers to continue to deprive minorities of life. The way that can be challenged is through policy change. There needs to be a legislative roadmap backing the social movement to make Black lives matter from City Hall to Congress. One area particularly in need of more racially equitable reforms is the education system. #DegreesNYC exists to address this issue and has offered many usable insights (Policy Agenda). The undercurrent of such policy comes from understanding the needs of underrepresented students -- these students are commonly from low-wage households that do not adequately support families. Moreover, these families do not have enough access to quality resources that meet their basic needs (needs include housing security and food security). On a large scale there needs to be more investments in historically disadvantaged communities that provide services to alleviate the pain these groups face.
Flooding schools with more officers who kill unarmed Black men, Brown men, Black women, and Brown women will only add to that pain. It can even be seen as militarizing the institution and providing a school to prison pipeline. A recent study helps explain how student resource officer’s perceptions might expose students of color to more frequent and intense police interactions. The path towards racial justice and equity lies also in a reimagining of public safety where we invest in public education, invest in access to capital for small businesses and families, and invest in higher rates of home ownership for these communities.