Breonna Taylor. Tony McDade. George Floyd. For too long, we have been naming black people murdered by police in America. Their deaths ripple outward: to the children robbed of their parents, to the partners grieving their loved ones, to the colleagues mourning their coworkers, and to the friends left alone. Every time an officer kills a black person, entire communities are traumatized both by the loss and then again by our society’s failure to act for justice.
Until we address and overcome racism in our culture, we cannot create a world free from domestic abuse and violence. When we see those in power using violence with impunity we cannot help but think of the thousands of survivors who have describe their abusers in just this way: “There was no one to stop him. It is like nothing can touch him, no matter what he does. People could see what was happening, but they said it is just the way he is.” Most of us recognize this as wrong when it comes to domestic abuse, and we must have the same collective recognition when the person committing violence is an officer of the law, and the person being assaulted is a black or brown community member.
Police brutality against black and brown people undermines the very concept of public safety to its core. We know that what has worked for white survivors has not worked for all survivors. Until our justice system commits itself not just to addressing individual acts of injustice, but also the underlying issues of bias and racism that are baked into its foundations, the system’s ability to help survivors – which is something many of us, especially those who are white, look to it to do – will be sorely and perhaps fatally compromised. Survivors who need help will continue to be at risk, stuck weighing whether or not calling the police puts them in more or less danger than they face from their abusive partner. This inequitable status quo cannot be allowed to stand any longer.
The issues of racism and domestic abuse and violence are not separate. As Karma Cottman, Executive Director of Ujima, the National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community, writes: “As a Black organization addressing these issues, we are acutely aware that our experiences with trauma are intersectional – domestic violence and sexual assault are rooted in the very same oppression that stifles our community. So, as we begin a new day, we are reminded that we are connected to a larger mission, one that calls on the humanity within each of us and centers OUR safety – our short and long-term safety, as well as, our physical, emotional, and economic safety.”
MCEDV joins organizations and individuals across the country in calling for justice for the killings of black men, women and trans people – a justice which includes consistent accountability for officers who kill black people. We call for an end to the ability of those with power to commit violence with impunity. And we call for all Mainers who are white to examine how each of us contributes to and benefits from the current status quo, and to act to interrupt deeply held belief systems we and others hold about whose lives and experiences we care about and whose we disregard, whose voices we listen to and whose we ignore. This work is critical to achieving MCEDV’s mission, and we stand firmly with black people in calling for justice and accountability.