One Year Later: How Far Have We Actually Come?
On April 20, 2021, Derek Chauvin was convicted of third-degree murder, second-degree unintentional murder, and second-degree manslaughter. Among activists, the feeling was of relief but not closure. Although it was the right decision, it was just one decision. Hundreds of families affected by police violence never receive an acknowledgment of wrongdoing, let alone reparation of harm. The trial could not possibly bring about justice for Black America. A year after George Floyd’s murder, we ask ourselves, how far have we really come in our pursuit of a world where no more lives are lost as tragically, senselessly, and unjustly as Floyd’s?
Unfortunately, there is still no trust between law enforcement and too many communities. The daily trauma of excessive police force, racial violence, and brutality continues to plague us. To make progress, we must hold our policing and legal systems accountable. Only then can we work on building trust.
Last summer, we called on the Massachusetts Legislature to follow the lead of the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus and enact reforms to dismantle structural racism in policing at the state level. In an encouraging first step, they passed An Act Relative to Justice, Equity and Accountability in Law Enforcement in the Commonwealth.
As an Alliance focused on racial justice, the YWCAs of Massachusetts urge policymakers to continue our national journey towards healing by:
- Enacting standards of police conduct to end police violence, use of force, and abuse against people of color: This starts with passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in the U.S. Congress. The bill seeks to make prosecution of police misconduct easier, expand federal oversight into local police units, limit bias among officers, and improve policing tactics. Another important piece of legislation is the Police Training and Independent Review Act. This bill would award grants to states to increase diversity and sensitivity training in police departments.
- Declaring racism and police violence a public health crisis: These declarations would result in additional investment in social workers, trauma-informed care, and de-escalation training. While the City of Boston took this step, the Commonwealth has yet to make this declaration. We must call on Governor Charlie Baker to do so. As an Alliance, we join YWCA USA in demanding the federal government make this declaration as well. Support the effort by contacting your members of Congress.
- Demanding police accountability and transparency: This means passing local ordinances so every police officer is required to wear body cameras, establishing a discipline matrix, ensuring cases of potential bias or extreme force are investigated to the full extent, holding officers accountable for misconduct, and making police misconduct public record. In addition, it includes supporting Congresswoman Pressley’s proposed Ending Qualified Immunity Act on the federal level.
Each one of us needs to play a part if we want to make collective progress. Here are some examples of what individuals can do:
- Attend council meetings, budget meetings. Make sure your town is moving toward justice. If they aren’t, consider testifying in a hearing, writing a letter to your representative, or publishing an op-ed (like this one!)
- Show support to our Massachusetts Legislation in Congress. Every member of the delegation is supporting the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Congresswoman Pressley and Senator Markey re-introduced the Ending Qualified Immunity Act, and Markey is also cosponsoring the Police Training and Independent Review Act. It is important to recognize and encourage them to continue this important work.
- Reach out to your State Representatives and State Senators to support H2292: An Act to Reform Civil Service Exam and H1440: An Act Establishing a Special Commission on Structural Racism.
- Get involved with your local YWCA’s racial and social justice advocacy efforts. There are nine YWCAs in Massachusetts. Find your local organization and participate.
Across our Commonwealth, the focus of the nine YWCAs will remain where it has been for many years: fighting for racial justice through advocacy and direct service. We will fight for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. We will fight for Massachusetts to lead the charge in changing policing in our communities. Our democracy requires nothing less from each of us as we continue our pursuit for justice, civil rights, and a world where justice just is.
Signed: YWCA of Massachusetts Alliance