Like so many before, this has been another month in which the fundamental problems of racism in America have been front and center. We start with the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer; the belated charging of three white men for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia; the protests of the killing of Breona Taylor and the ease with which a white woman in New York called the police to arrest a Black man who had requested that she leash her dog (as required by law) speak volumes about race in America. But we must add to those affronts the thousands of deaths from Covid-19 of the Black and Brown men and women who work in our nation’s nursing homes, hospitals, and food services.
These are not new stories…….they simply are this moment’s Sandra Bland or Emmet Till.
Certainly some will say that things have changed – but look more closely. With bravery and loss of life Black people won the vote – yet today that very right is under threat. Jobs were won and people flocked to the cities they were in; then companies left for cheaper, greener climes; the right to education was won – then taken away as districts, cities and counties re-segregated.
Periodically – sometimes in marches, sometimes in laws, and sometimes in uprisings – the Black community has demanded change. And it has been promised – by mayors, governors, presidents. But while much has been promised as a result of the sit-ins, marches, uprisings over the past 70 years, those changes pale beside what is needed and those not fulfilled. So here we are today with murder of Blacks by Whites, whether at the hands of law enforcement officers or unlicensed racist thugs, and often bearing little consequence for the murderers.
What makes these days worse than others in the past is that in the White House is a man committed to roiling, rather than calming the waters and who is committed to disempowering and disenfranchising Black men and women. The difference this time is that the man in the White House expresses no grief or shame about the death of George Floyd or Ahmaud Arbery, but instead threatens to punish the protestors, not the perpetrators. All this must change.
Chicago Women for Action has long been committed to an agenda of equality and justice for women and their families. To us that means not only freedom from death or harm at the hands of white supremacists (in or out of uniform) – it also means the guarantee of work with dignity and a decent life-sustaining wage. It means a guarantee of health care – both quality and access. It means the assurance of well-built and accessible housing, streets that are safe for our families, as well as air that is breathable and water that is drinkable.
It is an agenda for us all. If we are willing to listen, the last three months can teach us a great deal: about what work and what workers are really important; about who and what is really essential in our lives; and about the precariousness of the lives of food workers, front line workers, orderlies, nurses, and shelf-stockers, who are too often invisible to those in power.
The past days have been terrible but as always it is the Black community that is bearing the brunt – not only from Covid-19, not only suffering from the killings of Floyd and Taylor, not only from job loss and poverty, but also from the knowledge that well-off or poor, young or old being in the wrong place and wrong time they or their children could be the victim of a racist cop or a yahoo with a gun who fears every person of color.
We will not stand idly by.
We will fight to bring every licensed killer to justice.
Fight for the passage of the community oversight commission of the Chicago Police Board and Department.
Fight not for a minimum wage but a wage that ensures that any person who works can afford quality housing, food, clothing and more.
Fight to ensure that every school is a school where a mayor, congressman, or president would send their children.
Racism is not a Black person or a Brown person’s problem; rather it is a problem of those who benefit from it – through wealth or just through the advantage of not always being in danger.
We cannot do this alone. As always, we will join in these quests with our sisters and brothers wherever the fight is – on the streets, in the halls of the legislatures and assemblies and in the quest for the rights, safety and power that all deserve.