We are outraged and saddened, along with the rest of the nation, by the senseless, callous killing of George Floyd by a police officer, while he was in custody, with other police officers watching. Though this incident was shocking in the way it unfolded, it is also representative of a systemwide problem of police brutality, especially towards our Black citizens. This is not the first, last or only time this has happened, it just is the one freshest on everyone’s mind at this moment. We need to stop the senseless killing of Black people by police officers. It has never been acceptable that the constitutional rights and even the lives of African Americans are disregarded by those who are sworn to serve and protect them.
We stand with our fellow citizens in what is becoming a bipartisan push to hold our police officers accountable for the actions they take while in uniform. Shooting an unarmed man is murder. Killing a suspect in custody is murder. Callously standing and watching a fellow officer kill a civilian makes you an accessory to murder. Police officers’ “qualified immunity” does not and never has applied when laws have been broken or civil rights violated. That is the “qualified” part of the immunity. Federal judges giving officers a “free pass” are in violation of their oaths of office. That is the way the law has been written for decades, it just needs to be enforced.
The issue comes down to one key point: racism. Even if not every police officer is racist, the police force and its practices of racial profiling and targeting of Black citizens is at the heart of the systematic racial oppression of African Americans that has plagued this country since the abolishment of slavery. The two of us, therefore, as taxpayers and participants in this unequal society, are racist, and culpable if we do nothing to elicit change.
So we join with the chorus chanting, “Black Lives Matter.” This statement does not disregard the lives of police officers, or anyone else. But there is an epidemic of police officers killing unarmed Black men and women, on a systemwide scale, that needs to be addressed. People do kill police officers, which is also deplorable, but there is no single case of a person killing a police officer and being acquitted, where there are thousands of cases of police officers killing Black men and women and being illegally pardoned under “qualified immunity.” This needs to stop.
It is deplorable that it is taking nationwide riots in the streets to call this to national attention. But apparently not even that has been enough. One of us remembers the riots in Los Angeles in 1992 over Rodney King’s senseless beating, and the same issues were discussed then. I can only ask, what will it take for police brutality against Black people to end?
As a first step, we have chosen a few organizations to support financially that are working to help people in the immediate crisis and working to make meaningful and lasting change. If you are curious, we would be happy to share with you directly. As members of the early music community, we will be joining other organizations later today for a conversation about what it means to create inclusive and equitable spaces within our primary art form. We are considering how to effectively and constructively step up as citizens in our own community, aside from voting to elect leaders who hold all lives to be sacred. We encourage you to do the same, and to keep in mind Dr. Maya Angelou’s words: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
Here is one place to start for those of us who are white: https://medium.com/@surj_action/5-ways-white-people-can-take-action-in-response-to-white-and-state-sanctioned-violence-2bb907ba5277
SURJ, or Showing Up for Racial Justice, is a national network of groups and individuals working to undermine white supremacy and to work toward racial justice. Through community organizing, mobilizing, and education, SURJ moves white people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice with passion and accountability. They work to connect people across the country while supporting and collaborating with local and national racial justice organizing efforts. SURJ provides a space to build relationships, skills and political analysis to act for change.