Penn NLG Statement of Support for and Solidarity with our Brave Brothers and Sisters of Penn BLSA

SEPTEMBER 28, 2016 — The Penn Law Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild proudly recognizes and stands in support of the Statement of Solidarity with the Families of Terence Crutcher and Keith Lamont Scott, issued by Penn’s Black Law Students Association on September 22, 2016. In these times, silence is deafening. We acknowledge the courage it took to break that silence at a predominantly white, Ivy League law school. We stand in the face of injustice and declare now: We cannot, and will no longer, place the burden to speak up on the backs of people of color alone.

The endless stream of unjustifiable murders of people of color by law enforcement speaks for itself. But what video after video has captured is far deeper, far more insidious, than the individual actions of lone police officers. What we see on display is the systematic devaluation of black and brown lives. Alton Sterling did not deserve to be thrown to the ground like a lifeless doll for merely standing; Philando Castile should never have been pulled over for having a “wide-set nose”; Keith Lamont Scott did not deserve to be approached as hostile for allegedly rolling a marijuana cigarette; Terence Crutcher did nothing to be deemed “a bad dude,” and the blasé attitudes of the helicopter pilot and every other officer on the scene speak as loudly as the shots that killed him; 15-year-old Dajerria Becton did not deserve to have her neck pinned to the ground, nor did the unarmed teens around her deserve to have a gun drawn on them, simply for being present at a Texas swimming pool; caregiver Charles Kinsey did not deserve to be handcuffed while he bled out after being shot with his hands raised while trying to help defuse an unnecessary misunderstanding. The list goes on.

These videos show us the enforcement arm of an unspoken social agreement in which we are all complicit: people of color are presumed dangerous, criminal, violent, unwelcome; the onus is on them to rebut that presumption, and the burden is so high that it often costs them their lives regardless. Let us be clear: The problem is not merely “rogue cops” or individual racists; and the solution is not more cameras or better training. Police killing black people on camera is but the most visible aspect of a system that has ravaged black communities with disinvestment, criminalization, and incarceration for decades. Until we as a nation face this reality and choose to do something about it, such violence will continue.

Therefore, we speak to our fellow white citizens to say: It is your duty to speak up; it is your duty to use the access and privilege the color of your skin has given you to demand action. Political power is still disproportionately in your hands. Change therefore still requires your support. You have benefitted from a system that values white life at the expense of nonwhite—a system that allows us to normalize violence and injustices perpetrated against communities and individuals of color that we would never tolerate against our white citizens. This system has a name: it is white supremacy. And silent acceptance of white supremacy is violence.

And we speak to our fellow citizens of color to say: We stand with you in your message that enough is enough. We reject the notion that our support goes without saying. We must say it. Our action—and our visible, vocal solidarity and support—is long overdue.

In solidarity,

—National Lawyers Guild, Penn Law Chapter

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