“It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.” - James Baldwin
Friend, Our oppression has reached its boiling point. The uprisings we’re witnessing in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Minneapolis, New York, Oakland, Washington D.C. and many other cities across the U.S. are a direct consequence of the racism, bigotry, violence, and subjugation against Black people that has festered in this country for far too long. The murder of George Floyd, and the subsequent lack of accountability by the police, has set into motion what can only be described as a moment of reckoning for our nation’s conscience. How we become the land of the free depends largely on what happens next. As we continue to advocate in memory of George Floyd, now is the time to ask ourselves, what does justice look like? Yes, we want all the officers involved to be immediately arrested, tried for murder, and convicted. But justice for George Floyd also means bringing an end to the criminalization of Black skin. It means holding police departments accountable for their role in terrorizing our communities for years. It must mean a complete and thorough policy reset so that no Black person is ever put on trial for their own murder as we saw in the case of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, and Michael Brown. To ensure our survival as free Black people in this country two things need to happen. First, what has now become clear to the world, is the ongoing practice of police brutality, specifically against the Black community, is not only a civil rights issue but also a human rights issue. The NAACP is calling on the United Nations to step up and classify the mistreatment of Black people in the U.S. by the police as a human rights violation, aggressively call out the U.S. government in the process, and impose sanctions if necessary. Secondly, we need sweeping police reform–federal legislation mandating a zero-tolerance approach in penalizing and/or prosecuting police officers who kill unarmed, non-violent, and non-resisting individuals in an arrest.
This federal legislation must include the following principles:
A ban on the use of knee holds and choke holds as an acceptable practice for police officers.
The Use of Force Continuum for any police department in the country must ensure that there are at least 6 levels of steps, with clear rules on escalation.
Each State’s Open Records Act must ensure officer misconduct information and disciplinary histories are not shielded from the public.
Recertification credentials may be denied for police officers if determined that their use of deadly force was unwarranted by federal guidelines.
Implementation of Citizen’s Review Boards in municipalities to hold police departments accountable and build public confidence.
Friend, the anger and frustration we feel at this moment must be channeled into working towards a better future for us and for future generations to come. For too long we have marched, we have protested, and we have mourned our lost ones as the world and our allies watched on. It’s time to stop watching and take action. In Solidarity, Derrick Johnson @DerrickNAACP President and CEO NAACP