By Felicia Gustin
As thousands of white people join protests nationwide, it’s important to look at not just why people are showing up but also how. Given this nation’s history of racism, we, as white people, want to make sure we are part of the solution, not the problem.
As we practice physical distancing and continue the fight against the structural inequities of our society, we must persevere through the leadership and guidance of our local Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities. Now more than ever, we must rely on mutual aid, mutual dependence, and solidarity.
SURJ Bay Area is taking a critical step forward by creating a Racial Justice Emergency Relief Fund. 100% of donations will be passed on to local organizations providing critical immediate aid to our most vulnerable communities while continuing to fight the structural inequities that turned a novel virus into a global emergency.
In 1969 Fred Hampton Sr, the 21-year-old charismatic chairman of the Chicago Black Panther Party, was targeted and killed by the FBI in a raid organized by the Cook County State Attorney. Law enforcement carried out the raid and murders after several months of media coverage blasting the the Black Panther Party as “Wild Beasts”, and the FBI issuance of internal memos deeming them a “major threat” to the country. The FBI was committed to dismantling the Black Panther Party “by any means necessary.”
We look back at that time and those events in disgust and awe. However, we know that targeted repression of Black resistance is unquestionably NOT a thing of the past. We need only look at a 2017 FBI internal report entitled “Black Identity Extremists Likely Motivated to Target Law Enforcement Officers” which seems to have been used to justify surveilling and jailing a black activist — severely disrupting his life — based solely on his Facebook posts calling out police brutality.
The rapid displacement of Black, Brown, and poor community members has subtly altered the role of police in the Bay Area. Until the 1960s, many Bay Area cities had “Sundown” laws, which allowed police to arrest any person of color after dusk. While these laws are no longer on the books, the Oakland-based Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP) notes that related tactics are still in place. In the current era, police continue to selectively patrol upscale and “up and coming” neighborhoods, and over-patrol poor neighborhoods. In this way, Bay Area police violently reinforce the status quo of white supremacy in our communities. The recent Oakland Police pay raise without public input and the stalling of California’s Police Use of Deadly Force (AB 931) bill are further evidence that police unions hold undue sway in the democratic process, often sidelining the voices and needs of communities of color to make way for increased police power and influence.
By Felicia Gustin
We are all feeling outrage over the cruel and inhumane immigration policies that separate families at the border. Trump’s Executive Order is a smokescreen, a distraction, and we have to keep up the pressure. Now is the time to do something. You can turn your anger into action. Do one thing today. Do several things this week. Join with others because collectively we are stronger. Here’s a consolidation of the many lists floating around to give you more information on what can be done.
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