Image Credit: occupyoakland.org
Today on Indigenous People’s Day, known in the mainstream as Columbus Day, we at the Responsible Endowments Coalition stand in solidarity with the people on the ground who are resisting police violence and the militarized policing of black and brown communities across the country--from St. Louis and Ferguson to Karnes and Beaver Creek. Just as Christopher Columbus seized native land and enslaved indigenous peoples hundreds of years ago, the same Western systems of domination continue to oppress and terrorize large swaths of the US population. As a student-driven organization guided by a vision of a world in which people are valued over profit, we are deeply saddened and outraged at the continued targeting of black and brown people by a militarized police state. We further realize and denounce private corporate interests that are heavily invested in the incarceration of poor people of color, from the excessive arming of domestic police forces to the maintenance of private prison facilities and detention centers.
In August, unarmed black teenager Michael Brown was brutally murdered by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. Since Brown’s murder, many others have fallen victim to police violence, including teenager Vonderitt Myers Jr. who was shot in the Shaw neighborhood of St. Louis four days ago. Eyewitnesses claim that Myers was holding a sandwich and not a gun as police contend. The deaths of Brown and Myers cannot be understood in a vacuum. The criminalization of black and brown communities are directly profiting the institutions charged with serving the interests of those very same communities. ArchCity Defenders, a St. Louis-area public defender group, released a report revealing that fines and court fees made up the second largest source of revenue in Ferguson and that 86 percent of vehicle stops “involved a black motorist, although blacks make up just 67 percent of the population.” Additionally, more and more cities and states are privatizing prisons to cut upfront costs but have in turn contributed to the dramatic rise in incarceration and detention in the United States. More than 60 percent of the prison population is black or Latino even though those groups only make up 30 percent of the general population.
These policies are symptomatic of a larger neoliberal agenda which greatly contributes to the decline in life opportunities for low-income Americans. Neoliberal policies weaken the state’s ability to regulate private economic actors so they contribute to the common good rather than private interest. These policies include deregulation, union busting, lowering taxes on the rich, and defunding of essential social services. Poor people of color especially bear the brunt of these policies, with black men 21 times more likely to be shot dead by police and incarcerated nearly six times more than their white counterparts.
Local communities are organizing across the nation to demand the arrest of Darren Wilson and an end to racist policing, a social institution that traces its roots to the slave patrols of the 1700s. This past weekend, over a thousand protesters from all across the country came to march in St. Louis as part of Ferguson October’s Weekend of Resistance. Last week, the Ohio Student Association demonstrated at Beavercreek police headquarters to demand justice for the death of John Crawford III, a black Walmart customer who was fatally shot for carrying a toy gun in the store. On Saturday, a caravan of protesters gathered outside the Karnes County Residential Center in Texas to rally against the contracting of for-profit facilities to detain immigrants. The Responsible Endowments Coalition stands in solidarity with local groups like Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment and the Organization for Black Struggle and supports them in their demands.These include the immediate arrest of Officer Darren Wilson, the firing of Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson, and accountability for police practices and policies.
REC also encourages readers to seek out grassroots efforts within their own communities that are working to end police brutality, mass incarceration, and detention. To resist the racist systemic violence of neoliberalism, look for groups fighting to cut funding for new prisons, insisting on high standards in existing prisons, and pushing for public investment in over-policed communities. Private prison divestment is one type of campaign that institutions and communities can take on to fight back. If you are interested in getting involved, REC can provide you with resources and connect you to groups near your area.
Let us join together and fight for a world in which black lives are not only valued, but allowed to live, thrive, and prosper.
Nina Macapinlac is the Coordinator of Alumni Organizing at the Responsible Endowments Coalition.