Week #2: On Criminal Justice Reform

Using education, conversation, and collective learning to turn the page.

Hello friends 👋🏽

Welcome to the second edition of the Anti-Racist Learning Community newsletter. If you're a new subscriber, we are excited that you've joined this community and are looking forward to learning, working, and questioning with you.

Before jumping into this week's content, centered on pieces related to criminal justice reform, we'd like to reiterate our mission statement and community goals from our first newsletter, which you can access in full here.

We recognize that there are a variety of existing information-rich resources that are meant to help people unlearn the racism and anti-blackness embedded in so much of society. However, what is missing is a tangible and actionable way of consuming those resources regularly—which is what the Anti-Racism Learning Community aims to be. We will be pulling from and loosely following Ibram X. Kendi’s anti-racism syllabus, graciously curated by Tasha K. Ryals. This community will be a space to utilize resources put together by people of color and those who have shared their own lived experiences. In no way do we take credit nor intend to tokenize these resources, but rather employ them to reach an audience that can hold each other accountable in consciously learning and unlearning together.

Every Sunday, we will send out a newsletter with shorter resources to read, watch, and listen to. Monthly, we will select a book to read in alignment with the syllabus above. The final Sunday of each month at 8 pm EST we will host a facilitated zoom conversation to discuss the text collectively. The first of these conversations will happen on June 28, please sign up here.

This week, we want to focus our discussion around criminal justice reform. Since last Sunday, protests and rallies have continued across the country as we respond not only to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and all victims of police brutality, but also to systematic racism in all our American institutions. As protesters continue to be arrested across the country, it is necessary that we educate ourselves on the policies in our jails, courts, and legislators that disproportionately target Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC).
If you have questions or suggestions for our group, please feel free to reach out.

In community,

Weekly Resources 💡

Read 📚 This 2017 article from The Nation is about the injustices of cash bail. Over the past week, information about donating to national and local bail funds has spread across the internet. However, as Covert writes, bail funds haven't just been needed this past week—"nearly all of the growth in our jail population over the past 30 years is due to the detention of those not yet convicted of any crime." The reality of the for-profit bail-bond industry, which makes $2 billion annually, is just another example of the American legal system discriminating on the basis of wealth.

Watch 👀 Available on Netflix (Netflix also released it on YouTube!), 13th is a thought-provoking documentary that explores the racial inequality present since the end of the Civil War to the current incarceration of millions of African Americans. Filmmaker Ava DuVernay tells this twisted story through scholars, activists, politicians, and heart-wrenching photos and historical videos. While watching this documentary, the eerie parallels of the 1970s protests to the current protests are unsettling. The documentary highlights the core issue of the present and past racial inequality is due to the association of African Americans and crime. Furthermore, the film details a narrative of the dehumanization and monsterization of Black people through media, politics, and daily life, and its correlation to the inflation of prisoners in the U.S.

Watch 👀 Free on all streaming services and Google play until the end of June, Just Mercy is a must-watch. The film adaptation of Bryan Stevenson's New York Times bestseller details his work in forming the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) and defending death row clients, specifically an innocent man by the name of Walter MacMillian. The film serves as a reminder of the realities of death row in the United States and the challenges of gaining appeals and re-trials in a criminal justice system that favors the rich and white. Both the book and movie are stirring examples of the work that is being done to bring about racial justice through criminal justice reform.

Read 📚 This opinion piece by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor explains how George Floyd’s death is yet another affirmation that Black lives still do not matter to many people across the United States; however, she furthers that state-sponsored violence is not solely the domain of the police. For instance, within the pandemic at hand, the African-American community has faced a disproportionate death toll. One reason is that many have been made victims of medical racism, their symptoms ignored or dismissed as exaggeration. Even during these times, African Americans have constituted 93% percent of coronavirus-related arrests in New York, despite departments pledging to arrest less people to thwart the spread of disease in jail facilities. These recent incidents lend themselves again and again as proof that the plights of the Black community are not a priority in the eyes of the government.

Act ☑️ In light of the murder of George Floyd, online petitions have begun circulating on virtually every social media platform. Do your part by signing these petitions, as it is the quickest way to have your voice be heard. Do not be disillusioned into believing your efforts are insignificant—they matter. Overwhelming public support, including the mass-signing of petitions, has led to the officers involved in George Floyd’s death to be charged.

6 Petitions to Sign to Support the Black Lives Matter Movement

  1. The Hands Up Act is a proposal for officers to receive a mandatory 15-year prison sentence for killing unarmed men and women.

  2. This petition was launched by the NAACP in honor of George Floyd to put an end to brutal hate crimes.

  3. Show support for the Black Lives Matter movement and work to defund the police and funnel the money back into Black communities.

  4. The National Action Against Police Brutality petition calls for law enforcement reform by holding police officers accountable.

  5. Stand with Bre was created in honor of Breonna Taylor, whose 27th birthday should have been on Friday. She never got to live to see this day as police wrongfully entered her apartment and killed her. These police officers are still walking as free men. Sign the petition to bring these officers accountable.

  6. The Human Rights Campaign is seeking Justice for Ahmaud Arbery who was shot in cold blood while on a morning jog by a white father and son. These men are still walking free. Sign the petition to bring Ahmaud Arbery justice.

    Did you learn something new? Feel uncomfortable? Challenge your own idea of race? We'd love it if you shared the resources above with a friend, a coworker, or a community member to help them do the same.

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    P.S. If you are interested in getting involved with curating, writing, or organizing within this learning community, please email us at (antiracistlearning@gmail.com) ❤️