Editor’s Note: “We the People, committed to the declaration that Black lives matter, will fight to end the structural oppression that prevents so many from realizing their dreams. We cannot, and will not stop until America recognizes the value of Black life.” These two sentences conclude the first ‘State of the Black Union’, issued by the #BlackLivesMatter movement in early 2015 after Barack Obama’s sixth State of the Union address. Endorsed by over a dozen progressive organizations, the document declares 2015 “the year of resistance” against this structural oppression, and presents a sweeping indictment of what it asserts is the systemic and institutionalized subjugation of, and violence towards, Black Americans.
STATE OF THE BLACK UNION
The Shadow of Crisis has NOT Passed
2014 was a year that saw profound injustice, and extraordinary resilience. Homicides at the hands of police sparked massive protests, meaning that America could no longer ignore bitter truths of the Black experience. Gabriella Naverez, a queer Black woman was killed at 22 years old, unarmed. 37 year old Tanisha Anderson’s family dialed 911 for medical assistance. Instead, Cleveland police officers took her life. Anyia Parker, a Black trans woman was gunned down in East Hollywood. This brutal attack was caught on camera, yet her murder, like so many murders of Black trans women, have gone unanswered. This country must abandon the lie that the deep psychological wounds of slavery, racism and structural oppression are figments of the Black imagination. The time to address these wounds is now.
Freedom Rider, Diane Nash, once unapologetically declared, “We will not stop. There is only one outcome.” Black lives – men and women, queer and trans, immigrant and first-generation – will be valued, protected, and free.
In the face of the tragic killing of Mike Brown, Black youth in Ferguson said no more, sparking resistance against state violence that spread across the nation. For over 160 days we have been marching, shutting down streets, stopping trains and occupying police stations in pursuit of justice. We have stood united in demanding a new system of policing and a vision for Black lives, lived fully and with dignity. Gains have been made, but we who believe in freedom know we cannot rest until justice is won.
The current state of Black America is anything but just. For Black people in the U.S., the shadow of crisis has not passed.
- The median wealth for single White women is $42,600. For Black women, it’s $5.001.
- The infant mortality rate for Black mothers is more than double that of White mothers, due to factors like poverty, lack of access to health care, and the physiological effects of stress caused by living under structural oppression 2.
- 22 states have passed new voter restrictions since 2010, disenfranchising as many as 34 million Americans, most of them Black 3.
- In cities across the country, profit-driven policies fuel displacement and gentrification, leading to the destruction of entire Black communities 4.
- Blacks and Latinos are about 31 percent of the US population, but 60 percent of the prison population 8.
- In our country 1 in 3 black men will be incarcerated in his lifetime 5, and Black women are the fastest growing prison population 6.
- The life expectancy of a Black trans woman is 35 years. The average income of a Black trans person is less than 10K. Trans people are denied jobs, housing and healthcare just for living in their truths.
- It is legal in many jurisdictions to fire LBGT people from employment and deny them access to healthcare and housing.
- Since 1976, the United States has executed thirteen times more black defendants with white victims than white defendants with black victims 6.
- Black U.S. political prisoners have collectively served over 800 years in prison and have consistently been denied parole despite good behavior and time served.
- Increasingly, students in white areas are nourished and taught while Black children are criminalized and judged.
- Black neighborhoods lack access to affordable healthy food resulting in disproportionate levels of obesity and other chronic illnesses.
Our schools are designed to funnel our children into prisons. Our police departments have declared war against our community. Black people are exploited, caged, and killed to profit both the state and big business. This is a true State of Emergency. There is no place for apathy in this crisis. The US government has consistently violated the inalienable rights our humanity affords.
We say no more.
- We demand an end to all forms of discrimination and the full recognition of our human rights.
- We demand an immediate end to police brutality and the murder of Black people and all oppressed people.
- We demand full, living wage employment for our people.
- We demand decent housing fit for the shelter of human beings and an end to gentrification.
- We demand an end to the school to prison pipeline & quality education for all.
- We demand freedom from mass incarceration and an end to the prison industrial complex.
- We demand a racial justice agenda from the White House that is inclusive of our shared fate as Black men, women, trans and gender-nonconforming people. Not My Brother’s Keeper, but Our Children’s Keeper.
- We demand access to affordable healthy food for our neighborhoods.
- We demand an aggressive attack against all laws, policies, and entities that disenfranchise any community from expressing themselves at the ballot.
- We demand a public education system that teaches the rich history of Black people and celebrates the contributions we have made to this country and the world.
- We demand the release of all U.S. political prisoners.
- We demand an end to the military industrial complex that incentivizes private corporations to profit off of the death and destruction of Black and Brown communities across the globe.
This country owes Black citizens nothing less than full recognition of our human rights. The White House’s current racial justice initiative, My Brother’s Keeper, ignores too many members of our communities. It does not address the inhumane conditions we collectively experience living in a white supremacist system. The issues facing Black women, immigrants, trans and queer people must be included and we demand a full expansion of My Brother’s Keeper to do so.
We demand the same inclusion from our movement.
None of us are free until all of us are free. Our collective efforts have exposed the ugly American traditions of patriarchy, classism, racism, and militarism. These combined have bred a violent culture rife with transphobia, and other forms of illogical hatred.
This corrupt democracy was built on Indigenous genocide and chattel slavery. And continues to thrive on the brutal exploitation of people of color. We recognize that not even a Black President will pronounce our truths. We must continue the task of making America uncomfortable about institutional racism. Together, we will re-imagine what is possible and build a system that is designed for Blackness to thrive.
We fight in the name of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, killed by Detroit Police at the age of 7 years old, who never got to graduate from elementary school. We fight in the name of Mike Brown, who was killed by officer Darren Wilson, weeks before starting college. We fight in the name of Islan Nettles, a 21 year old Black trans woman who was pummeled to death outside a NYC police station in Harlem. We fight in the name of Tarika Wilson, who was killed by an Ohio police officer while holding one of her babies, and will never get to embrace any of her six children again.
2015 is the year of resistance. We the People, committed to the declaration that Black lives matter, will fight to end the structural oppression that prevents so many from realizing their dreams. We cannot, and will not stop until America recognizes the value of Black life.
Further reading and source:
Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, The Text Publishing Company, 2015