Open Americas Statement on Racism & Police Brutality

Over the past two weeks, crowds across the United States and the world have taken to the streets to protest a series of recent killings of black US Americans. 

On February 23, 25-year old Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed while on a run after being pursued by a former police officer and his son. The following month, police in Louisville, Kentucky executed a search warrant to force themselves into the home of 26-year old Breonna Taylor, an E.M.T. They shot her at least 8 times, killing her in her own bed. Last month, a Minneapolis police officer was charged with homicide after pinning George Floyd on the ground and kneeling on his neck for almost 9 minutes. 

The day after Floyd’s death, protests began in Minneapolis as citizens called for the police officer responsible for Floyd’s death, along with the three other officers present at the time, to be held accountable. Quickly, solidarity protests spread throughout the nation, with marches taking place in all 50 states and participants demanding an end to police brutality and systematic racism in the United States. Some protests have led to looting and destruction of property, which has been met by violence from police with the use of rubber bullets, tear gas, arrests, and beatings. Reports of police indiscriminately tear gassing, striking, and arresting peaceful protestors has led to concern and outcry. In one instance, peaceful protesters were removed from Lafayette Square in front of the White House with tear gas and rubber bullets so President Donald Trump could walk to a photo op in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church. The American Civil Liberties Union is now suing Trump and other federal officials involved.

Trump additionally called on governors to “dominate” the protests, deploying the national guard to at least 27 states, and threatening to send in the US military – which was last done in 1992 to address riots in Los Angeles, California after Rodney King, a black man, was beaten by police officers.

However, the majority of protests have remained peaceful, even when the police response to them has been met with violence. Organizations like Black Lives Matter, Color of Change, Campaign Zero, Equal Justice Initiative, and many more are leading the charge for reform. Already, protests have led to numerous city-level police reforms, the arrest of all four officers involved in George Floyd’s murder, disbandment of the Minneapolis police department, the Justice in Policing Act 2020, and an unprecedented national movement.

The disturbing incidents of the last month are unfortunately not novel; rather, they have been brought to the forefront of national attention with the help of social media. Numerous videos and stories are shared daily from black activists, organizations, and allies. While many are taking to the streets in mass protest, others are donating to black-led organizations, signing petitions, educating themselves on the United States’ history of racism, and engaging in difficult conversations with family and friends. However, there is still much work to be done in the fight to ensure that skin color is not a death sentence. 

Racism is an enduring, devastating issue in the United States, but it is not unique to this country. Across the Americas, a legacy of slavery and colonialism has left members of the African diaspora and indigenous groups marginalized and disenfranchised. 

Protests have been held in support of the movement in the United States in Argentina, where protestors called for justice for George Floyd and for Santiago Maldonado and Luciano Arruga, both of whom died mysteriously after coming into contact with the Argentine police. In Costa Rica, a moment of silence for George Floyd was held by the Legislative Assembly. Mexico has also been protesting police brutality after Giovanni Lopez died in police custody after being arrested for not wearing a face mask. Brazilians have held multiple marches in support of Black Lives Matter, Vidas negras importam, remembering their own who have died at the hands of police brutality and racism. 

Open Americas expresses solidarity with black U.S. Americans who are reeling from the trauma of recent events and commends the bravery of protesters across the nation, hemisphere, and world who are mobilizing against police brutality and racism. 

Anti-racism starts with all of us – we must begin to make change by interrogating our own biases and the ways in which we may be implicitly enabling racism. White allies must continue to educate themselves about the history of racism and the experiences of people of color. And everyone must vote for the changes we wish to see and use our time and money as we are able to advance this social movement. 

We pledge to keep using Open Americas as a platform for a diverse set of voices from the Americas to engage with difficult topics that matter across the hemisphere. 

A comprehensive list of anti-racism resources for white allies:

Photo via Wikipedia