Staying Focused in the Movement for Racial Justice

Thousands march through Manhattan to protest police violence
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

In this 24-hour news cycle — we continue to be concerned about how #BlackLivesMatter is covered and we challenge the ways in which a senseless tragedy, an isolated incident, is being used to send a chilling message to protesters and to shape a dangerous narrative primarily by the Patrolmen Benevolent Association’s Patrick Lynch. Mayor de Blasio and Chief Bratton have not pushed back on the newly shaping narrative. Our hearts go out to the families of officers Liu and Ramos. We ask the media not to erase from these tragic events that the shooting of Shaneka Nicole Thompson in Baltimore, is where these unfortunate events began, ending with the alleged shooter, Ismaaiyl Brinsleyn, taking his own life. According to his own family we know he had a history of mental illness and instability that was not properly addressed. Our hearts go out to all of the families that have suffered violence and loss connected to these events. In light of all we know, and with respect to all who hurt most now, we must not let misconceptions prevail.
This is a challenging moment, but we must maintain the integrity of our message and moral movement. We still have the moral high ground, and we cannot allow for it to be undermined. In 2011 when I was still in Arizona, I saw a similar dynamic play out with Sheriff Joe Arpaio. While human rights activists were clear and backed by evidence of racial profiling inherent in the “Show Me Your Papers” law, Sheriff Arpaio was intent on mocking and villainizing protesters and the communities that were suffering the most. He helped to set up a false dichotomy about how he was protecting “law and order” and the community was lawless. He stoked racial hatred and used his power and platform that helped build a base of extremists and positioned them to speak, in effect positioning politicians, lukewarm reformers, as having a moral center with “common sense” and “practical” solutions and proposals. We cannot allow that to happen. We do not have time for the platforms of people who stoke hatred or confuse the debate, and we cannot be satisfied with politicians telling us what is or is not possible.
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