Sustaining the Antiracist Momentum of the Summer of 2020
The lynching of George Floyd created a catalyzing moment that galvanized a long overdue movement. Millions of people and institutions had been working against systemic racism, some for decades, before our pandemic attention shifted to a heinous onscreen murder. We all became witnesses and our hearts broke. For some of us, it was a fresh heartbreak, the ripping open of a very old wound. For many, it was a wake-up call to the dormant reality that racism is alive and thriving in the United States and beyond.
What we witnessed in the weeks that followed was a civil rights reboot at an unprecedented scale. The global response to an unjust demonstration of a state sanctioned execution was remarkable. People took to the streets in support of Black Lives all over America and around the world. I work on justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI) issues worldwide and was able to connect with people in tiny towns in places like Denmark and Ireland who took to the streets in solitary with those of us in the US. Never before have so many people of different races, ages, ethnicities and nationalities stood up against the racism that has plagued Black America since the first ships carrying enslaved Africans landed on our shores.
Fast forward nearly a year and the intensity of the protests has faded. The impact of the international flashpoint of the Black Lives Matter movement will be felt for generations. It’s likely that the convergence of the double pandemics of racism and Covid-19 contributed to the crescendo that sent us shouting in the streets, toppling racist iconography, and demanding systemic change. The ripple effects are changing our nation and George Floyd’s sacrifice was the devastating force accelerator that ignited the flames of our fury.
There are far fewer protests to attend a year after American parks and thoroughfares were swollen with modern freedom fighters. Social media has settled into a steady chatter with a consistent smattering BLM banter. Those of us who work in justice related fields were given a welcomed platform to amplify our messages. But what of the new allies who just found their Antiracist footing? What happens with the people who just woke up to the realities of racism when the momentum shifts and the voice of the crowd fades into the background? That tidal wave of righteousness captivated millions who would have otherwise stayed silent. The new allies need outlets and avenues to keep accelerating the movement. We needed you in the streets and we need you in the game now.
Many of the causes and institutions that benefited from the momentary outrage of a newly empathetic nation still need our help. I live in Richmond, Virginia — the Capitol of the Confederacy. I never thought our super-sized, second-place civil war trophies would ever fall. The civil rights summer of 2020 proved me wrong. Our Afrofuturist art installation made international news and National Geographic’s cover of the Year in Photos issue. We gave racist Confederate General Robert E. Lee an epic upgrade. And Antiracist nonprofits like the Richmond Community Bail Fund received enough donations to bail out hundreds of men and women from racist justice system.
Like many nonprofits that benefited from the groundswell of support that followed the protests, The Richmond Bail Fund still needs our support. With Covid-19 still ravaging communities, people in the prison system remains vulnerable. The disproportionate impact of the (in)justice system on Black and Brown people means BIPOC folks are still 6 times more likely to be arrested than white people despite lower postulation numbers and similar rates of crime. People without the economic means to post bail can be trapped in coronavirus hotbeds for months, even years, until their cases resolve. Bail money posted by individuals and organizations like the Richmond Community Bail Fund is tied up for the duration of each case. Covid-19 has only slowed an already protracted legal administrative process.
Allies inclined to advance along the allyship continuum should consider donating to organizations like the Richmond Community Bail Fund on a recurring basis. A monthly membership donation can help countless individuals avoid unnecessary pandemic death sentences spurred by generational poverty and racial income disparity. Check out their fiscal transparency statement here.
Those of us inclined to think that if someone is arrested they deserve whatever consequences befall them are falling prey to retribution bias. The cards are stacked against BIPOC people and until we infuse human equity into unjust systems, we must do all we can to restore balance and fairness. Affluent people post bail easily, and freedom should be a privilege tied to wealth. If people in America are innocent until proven guilty, they should have equitable access to freedom for the duration of their court case.