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Friday, June 5, 2020

There are no sidelines right now. For any of us.

For many people of color, there never were sidelines.
By Aaron Regunberg

Photo by Steve Ahlquist, UpRiseRI
George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery -- they were loved and loving human beings who were cut down by police brutality, white supremacy, and state violence. They never had the luxury of picking a side. Neither did their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters. Neither did any person of color who saw in their pain and deaths the pain and deaths of their parents, their children, their friends, or themselves.

I can't possibly understand that pain. But I -- and every one of us -- can stand in solidarity with all who do. We can pledge now to fight for the oppressed and not the oppressor. 

We can get off the sidelines and commit, right here, to never return to them again.

And we can do all of that not only with grief and rage in our hearts, but also with hope. Because here's the thing -- this fight playing out in cities across the country is actually working.

After just a week up of uprisings, we're already seeing racial justice wins that even the most optimistic among us might never have thought to see under normal conditions. 

Every one of the officers who murdered George Floyd has been charged, and Derek Chauvin's charge was increased to second degree murder. 

The police chief of Louisville, Kentucky was fired for the murders of Breonna Taylor and David McAtee. The mayor of Los Angeles committed to cutting LAPD's budget by $100-$150 million. The Minneapolis City Council has announced plans to dismantle their city's police department and "replace it with a transformative new model of public safety."

All across the country, these protests are forcing Americans to pick a side -- and according to opinion polls, most are choosing the right side. We must as well. Here are some ways to join the fight:

1. Support our youth TODAY. Providence public school students have called a protest this afternoon.

2. Weigh in on the state and local budget battles that are about to kick off. Rhode Island is facing a huge deficit due to COVID-19, as are many local communities. Already, hundreds of teachers across our state face layoffs. We need to make sure that the many political leaders expressing support this week for this movement will put action behind their words. Call your state and local representatives and tell them that supporting Black Lives Matter means refusing to pass a budget that prioritizes prisons, police armaments, and tax giveaways to white millionaires over schools, housing, and healthcare for our communities of color.

3. Commit to a weekly volunteer shift for a local candidate who's been a part of these fights. There are some incredibly exciting primary races this year in Rhode Island, with candidates who are running on platforms to defund police militarism, end mass incarceration, and invest in communities of color. In the coming weeks I'll be sharing more information on the campaigns I am going all in for, and ways you can get involved -- so keep an eye out!

One last note. I was struck at the rally here on Saturday by what a large proportion of the righteous people marching through the streets of Providence were youth.

This is scary moment in human history. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't been feeling pretty pessimistic lately. But what we're seeing right now shouldn't just fill us with fear and concern -- it should also inspire hope and courage.

In spite of unspeakable violence, countless Americans are standing up for justice. We must do the same. And with an entire generation as clear-sighted, as cognizant of the stakes, and as willing to take action as this generation is -- well, I can't help but believe we've got a real shot.