The BREATHE Act has just been unveiled by the Electoral Justice Project for the Movement for Black Lives, outlining a bill with comprehensive plans to defund, divest, and demilitarize brutal policing practices, decarcerate our prison industrial complex, hold officials accountable, and reinvest in black communities. More information can be found on our Goals page.
Everyone browsing this page is likely familiar with this nation's long history of institutionalized racism, but to better understand the experience of what it means to be black or brown in America, it's necessary to educate oneself. There is always more to learn.
You are likely familiar with the general mission of the Black Lives Matter organization and its movement. If you have not already, you should use the resources and tools on their website, find and join your local chapter, and consider donating your time and your money to their cause and make it your own.
The fight for social and legal justice reform, the fight to dismantle the infrastructures of oppression and inequality baked into the legal system, the fight for valuing and protecting and standing up for black and brown lives doesn't start in the streets, it starts at home. And right now, during this pandemic, we are all at home.
Your job begins with you. Then your family. Then your world. Racism and prejudice are not born in a vacuum; they are learned but they are also inherited, through conscious and unconscious behaviors, reactions, microaggressions, far beyond outward ideologies. Talk to your parents, your uncles, your aunts, your grandparents, your siblings, your friends, and your colleagues. Do not avoid conversations because they are uncomfortable. Every unchecked remark is a missed opportunity to reach out and open a mind before that thought or remark snowballs into oppressive action or oppressive inaction.
You can also take action by teaching yourself. Whether you live in Philadelphia or another city or a small town, research it, uncover its history--make it your mission to identify the structures of oppression, be they acts of police brutality, redlining, or gentrification. Learn what was purposefully not taught to you in school. Learn about acts of police terrorism against people of color, like the Philadelphia MOVE bombing. Teach yourself about your local histories of corrupt politicians and their racist actions and legacies, like that of Philadelphia's former mayor, Frank Rizzo.
Learn empathy for all those affected, attacked, and displaced by these actions, take those feelings of despair and rage and love for your fellow man and make it a tool to understand why removing monuments that are seen by many to be painful symbols of oppression--like the removal of the statue of Frank Rizzo and the painting over of his mural--are a necessary part of just one small step in the right direction.
Use it to understand why merely erasing visibility of these monuments is NOT an erasure of ugly truths and histories that need to be held accountable.
Use it to understand that even replacing those symbols with monuments to great black and brown leaders and community organizers would be just another small step on the road to reform.
Use your energy and angst to join with other activists who are working to uphold black and brown communities by staying informed, by protesting, supporting protestors, taking legal action, joining local and national organizations, serving and upholding justice, and documenting and preserving truth. We've got a few resources to get you started.
Beyond the Legal Research Center and Kline School of Law staff, the office of Diversity, Inclusion & Student Belonging, and our law school community, we'd like to thank others who have helped share their resources, and encourage anyone to share suggestions and send us links for inclusion.
Special thanks as well to The Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, Laura Pennington, Michelle Macinsky, and Samantha Shain, for sharing their resources with us.