To understand the seismic shift occurring everywhere around us, we must acknowledge that structural racism has existed since our nation’s founding. It persists today: from redlining (in which people of color were, and are, unable to purchase real estate), to the war on drugs, stop and frisk, and the disparities in crack versus powder cocaine sentencing. Historically, black and brown people are incarcerated for crimes that white people commit without similar fear of prosecution.
Structural racism also drives youth homelessness. If your parents can’t buy a house or are incarcerated, your chances of experiencing homelessness skyrocket. Chronic underfunding of schools and an over-reliance on the juvenile justice system create a structure in which black and brown young people are warehoused, not educated. Without effective social welfare policies, police are forced to address the inevitable homelessness that ensues, posing danger to our clients, and to people of color everywhere.
A civilized nation does not allow police to murder its citizens; rethinking how our society polices itself is now broadly acknowledged to be an urgent priority. We support Mayor Breed’s and Supervisor Walton’s actions in our own city, including Mayor Breed’s police reform plan released yesterday, and the Minneapolis city council’s efforts to benefit long-underserved communities by redirecting a portion of police funding. In addition, we are taking concrete steps within our own organization to address racism in all its forms. A new world is arising before our eyes; we pledge to join our brothers and sisters in building it.