Last Friday, Sister District released a statement on the fight for justice for Black people in America. We are unequivocally outraged at discrimination and violence against Black people. It must stop.
We also know that incidents of police brutality are not isolated or new. They cannot be disregarded as glitches in the system. They are the predictable consequence of the structural racism and anti-Blackness that has been rooted in the framework of this country for 400 years. And while the most egregious and horrific incidents catch national attention, discrimination and racism—both subtle and overt—infect this country every day and put Black lives and livelihoods at risk.
These systems must be dismantled and rebuilt, and every single one of us has the moral obligation to participate in the process.
To do this, we need to fundamentally change our community infrastructure. We need increased social services, healthcare for all, universal free preschool, treatment for mental health and addiction, and student loan relief. We need to end voter suppression. We also need to completely overhaul the criminal justice system. And as President Obama stated earlier this week, “the elected officials who matter most in reforming police departments and the criminal justice system work at the state and local levels.”
This moment provides a window for state-based policy reform, which we know can have a concrete effect on dismantling structural racism. States that enact strict use-of-force policies, reject using military equipment, push for fair police contracts, and establish meaningful community oversight have fewer incidents of police violence.
We must seize this moment to both elect state legislators who will take action, and demand the same from current representatives. Some legislators have already gotten started:
- This week, Virginia State Senator and Sister District alumna Ghazala Hashmi pledged to introduce legislation to ban police use of chokeholds, require body cameras, and ban the re-hiring of police officers cited for violence or abusive conduct.
- Earlier this year, Virginia’s new blue trifecta passed the Community Policing Act, which prohibits police departments from bias-based profiling and requires officers to collect and report data from investigatory stops.
- In Colorado, which Sister District helped turn into a blue trifecta in 2018, Democrats are working on a bill to remove the shield of immunity for prosecution from cops who act unlawfully and allow them to be sued in their individual capacities.
Time and time again, we learn that elections have consequences, and states matter.
Voting and elections are just one tool in the arsenal to bring change. In our civic lives, we must fight to ensure everyone can vote easily and safely, elect officials with bold plans for a fair future, and pressure electeds to make reform. In our personal lives, we must stand up and speak out, continue to educate ourselves on how to be anti-racist, and center the voices of those who are most impacted. This work will never be done, but we must commit to it, every day, until every person is treated with fairness and dignity.
Rita, Gaby, Lala, and Lyzz
Sister District Co-Founders