By handing down the civil rights conviction against the three Minneapolis police officers in connection with the death of George Floyd, a federal jury last month finally recognized what we have always known to be true: the rules of policing are what make U.S. police forces racist, not just individual officers.
With its verdict, the jury made it clear that those rules need to change.
We now clearly see that change is not going to come from the Joe Biden administration. By forcefully calling to “fund the police” in his State of the Union address, the president failed to address the danger that police pose to Black communities and the inequities that Black communities face in accessing basic social services.
Over the last two years, we’ve seen a handful of convictions and charges filed against police officers accused of misconduct, but these rare events haven’t changed much about the way police operate in this country.
Police killings have actually gone up in the last year. This juxtaposition raises some questions:
What Does a ‘Just System’ Mean?
What would or could keep Black people safe, in a country plagued by anti-Black racism? And what does a “just system” mean?
Justice is reimagining the scope of public safety that protects Black and brown lives rather than targets them, and invests in their communities rather than militarizes them. Justice is redirecting the immense resources funneled into the carceral and police systems to programs that create thriving, healthy communities.
Justice is valuing solutions that strengthen our communities through health, education, violence prevention, and housing over preserving the status quo that oppresses our communities by focusing on crime and punishment.
Yet police departments across the country continue to receive mind-boggling levels of funding, including corporate donations funneled into police foundations, that provide little motivation for them to assess the racist lens through which they operate.
Increased police budgets show that mayors and lawmakers continue to support a system that rewards police for consistently harming Black people. That’s how policing in America was designed to work, and those are the outcomes it produces.
True public safety lies in recognizing that the current law enforcement-driven approach terrorizes Black communities. The president’s speech ignored the most pressing issues affecting Black people. It showed that crises abroad take precedence over crises affecting Black people at home.
While we welcome the federal civil rights conviction for the murder of George Floyd, we cannot be distracted by this one verdict. We must fervently continue our pursuit of broader change to the systems of public safety and the equitable access to resources in which true safety lies.
Protecting Black people, restoring Black communities, and delivering justice requires more than a trial. Communities across the country are pushing for proven and meaningful solutions and investments that keep Black communities — and all of us — truly safe.
We will continue to demand that leaders at every level of government invest in community solutions like housing, education, mental health care, and violence interruption that actually protect Black people, and ensure that all communities have the opportunity to thrive and build a stronger society.
Malachi Robinson is the criminal justice campaign director at Color Of Change. He welcomes comments from readers.