2020 magnified our failures as a society. Law enforcement continued to murder Black people. Workers were forced to choose between their health and a paycheck. The integrity of our elections was systematically attacked. The list goes on.
While COVID-19 magnified many of these crises, the root problems were not new in 2020 and will continue to destroy the lives of individuals, families, and communities long after this pandemic is under control and life returns to “normal.”
In our normal:
- Black and Brown people are stopped, arrested, convicted, and incarcerated at staggering rates compared to white people – and they are more likely to be harassed, shot, and killed by the police.
- Black and Brown people are more likely to lack housing, transportation, a living wage, quality education, comprehensive health care, healthy foods, clean air and water and affordable credit, to name just a few things.
- We have two justice systems – one for the rich and one for the poor.
None of this is by accident.
From colonization and slavery, through modern racist and exploitative policies that include regressive taxation, redlining, and the war on drugs, America has systematically exploited and denied the basic human rights of Black, Brown, poor, and other marginalized people.
Our laws have been a chief mechanism for maintaining this system.
Throughout American history, our laws have protected the oppressor over the oppressed — from punishing abolitionists instead of slave owners, to punishing opponents of mass incarceration and police violence instead of those who perpetuate it.
Today, our political leaders continue to use racist dog whistles like "law and order" and "tough on crime" to convince many that it is safer and smarter to prioritize policing and incarceration rather than things that will actually improve public safety and health, like ensuring all people have a roof over their head, comprehensive healthcare, a living wage, and quality public education.
Today, our political leaders continue to use police to carry out their oppressive policies that undermine public safety and destroy Black lives and communities. Our political leaders have turned police into society's "solution" for drug use, misbehaving children at school, homelessness, mental illness and protests against these destructive policies, to name just a few.
2020 was yet another reminder of why we must finally dismantle this racist and exploitative system and replace it with a new system built on a foundation of justice, equity, and true public safety.
To realize this vision we must not only dismantle current institutions, but also take affirmative steps, including reparations, to begin to repair the harms created through centuries of oppression — harms that continue to this day.
To help guide our work, we recently conducted a statewide virtual listening tour, speaking with nearly 50 community and faith leaders, directly impacted community members, and other advocates and social service providers from across South Carolina. Through this listening tour, we learned about the root issues in each community and heard ideas for real solutions. With this information, together with our partners, we are defining and advancing a community informed vision for what a just, equitable, and safe South Carolina will look like and use the combined power of our organizing, legal, policy, and communications strengths to make this vision a reality.
In 2021 we must finally build a society where We the People means everyone. Now is the time.