Since the tragic police killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown, we have heard time and time again that his brutal death unearthed the pain of old wounds. But those wounds are anything but old.
In Ferguson, Mo., and across the country, systemic racial profiling and nationwide police violence threaten the lives of African Americans—youths and adults—every day. American society is marred by implicit and explicit racial bias, which informs the actions of many police officers, with dangerous and deadly consequences for communities of color. It’s a national crisis that demands immediate federal intervention.
Today I stood at the White House with the Organization for Black Struggle and a number of other progressive groups to deliver the voices of nearly 900,000 people to demand justice for Mike Brown and systemic reforms to end racially motivated police violence.
A movement to transform national policing and create new systems of police accountability is growing and gaining power. These 900,000 people—mothers, fathers, allies, young people, voters and so many across the country—have had enough and are committed to long-term collective action.
Justice for Mike Brown and all victims of police violence must start with President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder. The administration must show the leadership necessary to stop police violence and end programs that incentivize police brutality. The history and present of civil rights and equal rights in this country is one that required and requires the federal government to step in when local authorities are unwilling or unable to move the ball forward on civil rights—whether it is to escort black children into once-segregated schools, ensure that our voices are heard and counted in this democracy, or to ensure that being protected and served by police isn’t a privilege but a right.
Our call is to President Obama’s administration to set a higher standard for policing across the country and advance policies and financial incentives for law enforcement to meet that standard. We need a standard for anti-bias police training across the country and comprehensive federal data collection on police brutality, broken down by race. We need new and improved federal mechanisms for police oversight that brings about real accountability and sends a message to law enforcement, and the country, that black and brown folks are worthy of due process and dignity.
The stakes are high, and this is our moment to secure much-needed systemic reforms. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are willing to do that work. It’s time for our political leaders to seize the moment and join us in creating a new America—one that honors and protects the lives of all.
The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.
Rashad Robinson is executive director of Color of Change, the nation’s largest online civil rights organization. Follow Color of Change on Twitter.