Once again, we witness horrifying video footage, this time of a Black man, Jacob Blake, being shot in the back seven times at close range, right in front of his three young sons. As an agency that serves families and children, there is of course much we can say about violence and trauma, both its immediate impact and the ways it echoes through people’s lives. But this time, I want to speak personally as a father.
As some of you know, my husband and I have raised two sons, now seventeen and eighteen. They are multiracial and identify as Black, and they are perceived by the world as Black. When they were young, they were mostly perceived as “cute” (and of course in my eyes, they still are). Now that they’re grown, they are perceived by many as threatening. That is our reality, one shared by other multiracial and Black families.
One of my sons is now learning to drive. It’s going pretty well, with the usual nerve-wracking moments that you’d expect. But there’s a major added element. As a young man of color, he urgently needs to learn how to drive in a way that gives the police no excuse to pull him over. Of course it could happen anyway, easily. And I know as a parent that despite all my efforts to coach him on how to survive those situations, the result could be fatal. That’s what we live with.
When you see people out in the streets, angry and scared, chanting for justice and sometimes about “defunding the police,” that’s what they’re talking about. It is absolutely unacceptable that parents and our children have to carry this fear all the time. There is a long and terrible history of deeply embedded racism that pervades law enforcement in this country, and for all our sake, it has to be rooted out. We’re talking about structural racism, and sometimes when a foundation is rotten and the structure fails, it has to be rebuilt. Resources need to be reallocated and systems reimagined in order to keep our community truly safe.
We at JFCS East Bay will continue to serve families impacted by violence and trauma, work that we are proud and humbled to do. We can help people pick up the pieces when their lives have been shattered, but we also need to call out the sources of that shattering. To say that Black Lives Matter is part of it, but it’s not sufficient. “Mattering” is the minimum. We need to aim higher, more like, “Black lives are valuable, precious, and cherished.” That would be transformative. And for me and many other parents, we’d finally be able to sleep at night.
Right now, our own Congresswoman Barbara Lee is co-sponsoring House Resolution 988, which condemns racial profiling, police brutality, and excessive use of force. The resolution calls for the adoption of reforms and policies at all levels of government to end these injustices, including:
- Improving oversight and independent investigations to hold individual officers and police departments accountable.
- Supporting efforts to establish all-civilian review boards with the authority to investigate police misconduct to ensure community-level oversight, accountability, and disciplinary action of police officers.
- Adopting unbiased law enforcement policies at all levels of government that reduce the disparate impact of police brutality, racial profiling, and use of force on Native American, Black, and brown people and other historically marginalized communities.
- Calling for the Department of Justice to reassert its authority to investigate individual instances of racial profiling, police brutality, and violence and to investigate and litigate against individual law enforcement officers and police departments that routinely violate civil rights.
Please join JFCS East Bay in speaking up in support of this resolution. And we will continue to inform you about additional ways you can use your voice and your vote to fight against white supremacy and anti-Black racism. For too many generations and centuries, Black people have been intentionally harmed, oppressed, and disenfranchised by the economic, criminal justice, health care, and political systems in our country. We hold out hope that new legislation can be a starting place to reimagine these systems and bring lasting change.