It is with fierce yet heavy hearts that we write today.
We write out of necessity, in acknowledgement of pervasive systemic racial injustice that manifests in law enforcement routinely murdering Black people. We write to unequivocally affirm, #BlackLivesMatter. Just this week, at least two Black men have been killed by police, Anton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in St Paul Minnesota. Learn their names and stories; may they rest in peace. Honor that, however good or imperfect we each may be in life, no one deserves to be summarily executed; may their families be supported to heal and to seek justice.
The Oregon Coalition “promotes equity and social change in order to end violence for all communities.” Yet as Kim Gandy, Director of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, so clearly states: “We cannot achieve safety for all when our neighbors are being killed in the streets by those who have sworn to serve and protect. How can a victim of domestic violence [or sexual assault] reach out to the police for help and safety from an abuser when the headlines consistently report the deaths of people of color at the hands of law enforcement officers?”
Today we invite you to make space in your hearts, relationships and your work, to acknowledge the pain and sorrow present around these killings. To acknowledge the fear and exhaustion that arises in relation to all the interconnected forms of violence affecting those we serve, love, are connected to, and indeed ourselves.
Amidst the emotions, we embrace a critical understanding of structural racism, as supported by Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor’s recent dissenting opinion: “We must not pretend that the countless people who are routinely targeted by police are “isolated.” They are the canaries in the coal mine whose deaths, civil and literal, warn us that no one can breathe in this atmosphere… Until their voices matter too, our justice system will continue to be anything but.”
Who is expected to condemn violence? Who is assumed to be dangerous? Who is assumed worthy of safety? A statement by the DC Coalition reminds us that, “in order to shift the paradigm, we must acknowledge that our work to end domestic and sexual violence is inherently interconnected with addressing institutionalized racism in our country. True safety cannot be experienced by only a portion of our society. It has to be enjoyed by all.”
You are as always invited to get involved in ongoing Coalition work against racism and all forms of violence; please contact Choya Adkison-Stevens for more information. And for a solid list of specific actions you can take, see Ijeoma Oluo’s brilliant simple piece, What You Can Do Right Now About Police Brutality.
We so appreciate your work; we share your concerns and fears, and your passion for change. Let us rise together for liberation and for justice.
The Oregon Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence