April 23, 2021
Rep. Pressley in USA Today: A Guilty Verdict Is Not Justice. This Moment Demands Meaningful Policy To End State-Sanctioned Violence.
WASHINGTON – In an op-ed published in USA Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) responded to recent reports that the guilty verdicts in the Derek Chauvin trial have reduced the appetite amongst lawmakers—in both parties—for action on police reform. In the op-ed, Rep. Pressley called for meaningful policy and budget change to dismantle every system that finances and perpetuates brutality, murder and state-sanctioned violence at home and abroad.
The op-ed was co-authored by Briana Blueitt, Communications Manager in the office of Congresswoman Pressley. It is a tribute to Black girls and Black staff who continue to do this work in the face of continuous trauma.
The full text of the op-ed is below and can be viewed online here.
USA Today Op-Ed: A Guilty Verdict Is Not Justice. This Moment Demands Meaningful Policy To End State-Sanctioned Violence.
By Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley and Briana Blueitt
April 23, 2021
I want to wake up feeling lighter. But I don’t. I want to wake up fearing less for the safety of my Black husband and Black daughter. But I don’t.
I want to wake up and blast Nina Simone. “It’s a new dawn. It’s a new day.” But I can’t.
It’s a new day in America, but our communities are still faced with the same traumas as before. The outcome of the Derek Chauvin trial doesn’t change things for us, because Black people are still being killed by police.
The three guilty verdicts came sooner than many of us expected Tuesday. Had I known in the morning what the day would bring, my prayer and meditation for the day might have been different. My morning journal reflection might have been different.
The truth is that we never expected justice in this trial. The American criminal legal system remains deeply broken and could never deliver true justice for George Floyd and his family. True justice would be George Floyd, alive today, at home with his fiancée, children, and siblings.
We demanded, deserve accountability
We demanded accountability, and organizers from Minneapolis to Boston to Lagos made the reality of that demand possible. But a person’s murder should not require global uprisings against state-sanctioned violence to result in consequences.
As we listened collectively with baited breath as the Chauvin verdict was read aloud, Columbus, Ohio police killed 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant. The following day, police in Elizabeth City, North Carolina killed Andrew Brown Jr. Last week, while the trial was still underway, Chicago police killed 13-year-old Adam Toledo, Knoxville police killed 17-year-old Anthony Thompson Jr. and police shot and killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright in a city just miles from where the Chauvin trial was being held.
The notion that the outcome of this trial is cause for celebration is traumatic in and of itself. It is a lie. For the Black people who feel a sense of joy and relief after the guilty verdict, hold space for that. Allow a wave of peace to wash over you. We deserve that.
But everyone else must understand that there is nothing to celebrate when Black and brown people are still subjected to the ongoing, daily loop of trauma that state-sanctioned violence in our communities creates.
George Floyd was not a martyr. His life was not meant to be a sacrifice. He was a regular person who woke up on a regular morning, went to a regular store and was murdered in broad daylight, on camera, by regular police. He was somebody. He deserved to grow old.
Ma’Khia Bryant was a 16-year-old-girl who made TikTok videos with her friends, experimenting with curly hair routines, singing along to Megan Thee Stallion and Beyoncé. But early reports of her death identify her as a “young woman.” She was a child who was denied the freedom of ever becoming a woman. Denied the freedom of getting married and having children. Denied the freedom of growing up.
Black girls deserve girlhood — uninterrupted. The adultification of Black girls and erasure of their childhood and innocence is what leads to their to criminalization, abuse and, in some cases, murder.
As a member of Congress, I seek to do the work of healing and liberation for Black girls and Black people every day. Our freedoms and our destinies are tied, and I am accountable to the calls for collective liberation. But I can’t do the work of liberation for Black people if Black people are dead.
What I want my colleagues in Congress and at every level of government to understand is that the only thing that matters in this moment is meaningful policy change and budget change — period. It’s time to put our money where our mouth is and invest in resources that provide the restorative, trauma-informed, community-based solutions people are demanding. Our communities have already lost too much.
Safety is freedom from fear
It’s time for this country to have an honest conversation about what safety looks like and what things truly keeps us safe. To me, safety means freedom from fear. Freedom from fear of being profiled and surveilled. Freedom from fear of being evicted. Freedom from fear of debt-collection calls for a student loan in default.
Freedom means a roof over every head, food in every belly, free-at-point-of-service health care, enough jobs that provide good wages for people to not only survive, but to thrive.
In the richest country in the history of the world, survival should be the floor, not the ceiling. But our communities are consistently required to organize and mobilize to demand the most basic of freedoms. Health care. Housing. Education. Food. Clean water. Clean air. Bodily autonomy. The right to live to see another day.
I hope the outcome of this trial brings the Floyd family some peace. But I hope the rest of us remain acutely uncomfortable with the fact that justice can never truly be served because George Floyd is dead. Our work will not be complete until we legislate to dismantle every system that finances and perpetuates brutality, murder and state-sanctioned violence at home and abroad.
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