#BlackLivesMatter = #DefundThePolice

Debra L. Ness

Earlier this month, the National Partnership participated in #BlackoutTuesday, interrupting our business as usual to amplify other voices instead of our own.

We believed it was a good and important thing to do. And we did it with sincerity and humility. In hindsight, we also did it without fully understanding the meaning of our words.

When we retweeted throughout the day and used the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag, we did so without appreciating that supporting the campaign also signaled support for the campaign’s call to defund the police. Frankly, we had not yet grappled with and arrived at our position of support for the movement, and failing to see more than a hashtag is an example of how the white progressive community causes harm.

We have deepened our understanding of these issues and the movement sweeping our country, and I am confident saying that the National Partnership genuinely supports the Black Lives Matter movement. It's not a catch phrase. It's not a hashtag. It's a movement and a call to action. It aligns with our day-to-day work to advance health and economic justice for all women and families. It is essential to achieving our vision of a just and equitable society in which all people live with dignity, respect, security and opportunity undiminished by any form of discrimination or bias.

Over the past week, while listening to the lived experiences of Black women and other women of color on our staff, I have become even more aware about how my actions (or inaction) as a white female leader have consequences and how my own journey to better understand the insidious, systemic nature of white supremacy can cause harm to those I work with and to the very communities I am dedicated to serve.

This is not unique to me or to the National Partnership.

The progressive movement has a complicated history of advancing change for white women without embracing the particular interests, and all too often even at the expense of, Black, Native and other women of color. And in our 50-year history we too have been complicit in perpetuating the status quo. That’s why we are looking inward to more humbly and authentically live the values we advocate for — the values at the core of our mission.

The National Partnership’s mission is to achieve equity for all women and all families. We cannot achieve this mission without centering Black women and Black families who’ve been deliberately harmed and disadvantaged by structural and systemic racism. We must intentionally promote racial equity and combat white supremacy. We must intentionally work to dismantle the policies and structures that sustain and enable all forms of racism, discrimination and oppression.

I can see more clearly each day how we’ve fallen short. As an organization, we did not respond quickly or adequately to the horrendous acts of police violence now seared in our public consciousness. In the past, our responses have been more focused on words than actions. And in this moment, without wanting to burden the women of color on our staff, we did not know how best to act even when we wanted to do so.

We're not going to get bogged down by semantics — the terms reform, defund, demilitarize and abolish may mean different things to different people.

Yes, we endorse commonsense policies that can help provide immediate relief, but our vision calls for more than incremental change or quick wins.

Our focus is on the future — our vision is a just society.

We embrace the end of police violence. Period.

We share the goal of transforming our country so it's not dependent on policing.

We support defunding, dismantling and reallocating bloated police budgets and investing in local communities and organizations that are better equipped, for example, to help our brothers and sisters who need shelter and who struggle with mental illness. This is evident in our recent testimony to the District of Columbia Council’s Committee on the Judiciary & Public Safety.

We pledge to work toward the end goal of Black and Brown communities being safe and feeling secure without a police presence — a reality that white, privileged communities currently take for granted.

We are dedicated to the dream of a society with healthier systems, healthier communities and healthier people.

And we will continue to listen and ask how the National Partnership can be a helpful ally to the new generation of activists who have created a movement that is positioned to seize this moment.

To our friends, supporters and partners — we ask you to join us.

We must all be in this fight. Together.

As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. warned our nation, "a time comes when silence is betrayal" — and "shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will."

At the National Partnership, we will not be silent. We will deepen and amplify our commitment to disrupting the status quo, to challenging the white supremacist systems, structures and policies in all the work we do.

The racist murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sean Reed, Rayshard Brooks, and countless others compel us to recommit ourselves and our work to achieve justice and equality for all.

It’s possible in our lifetimes, and I believe, together, we can make it possible now.




We are partnering with BYP100 (Black Youth Project 100) on an urgent petition demanding Congress address police violence immediately. This courageous, youth-led organization mobilizes, develops and empowers Black 18-35 year-old activists and organizers dedicated to creating justice and freedom for all Black people.

Sign the Petition




Back

Search the Blog