Your Turn: Join the fight against racial injustice right now

For 8 minutes and 46 seconds, we watched the taking of yet another life at the hands of those whose duty is to serve and protect. We reach out today as we continue to grapple with the devastation caused by the most recent instances in a continuation of generations of violence against black people in this country. The Black Law Students Association (BLSA) at the University of Kansas School of Law is part of the community that is under siege. We support, promote and serve the needs and interests of black law students and communities, and today as always, we stand in solidarity with every person impacted by the plague of white supremacy and everyone who is working to dismantle anti-blackness wherever or however it is found.

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed fissures in our society; festering wounds that have remained hidden to some for years, but to black and other marginalized communities, injustice and inequity have been felt throughout every generation. Today, we are struggling to make sense of the myriad of emotions we are experiencing — not only at the recent murder of George Floyd but also at the thunderous silence of some of our coworkers, colleagues, professors and even friends.

Others do speak, but not as allies. Some weaponize their voices against the calls for justice. They prioritize the inconvenience of lost property over the tragedy of stolen life. Hear us: Black people across the country are, literally, protesting for their lives.

We hear voices in solidarity too. But the time for memos and statements has long since passed. To our friends, peers and colleagues who seek to be in allyship with our community, now is the time for action — not mere supportive words. Aspire to be accomplices for justice. To be an accomplice for justice, utilize your voices and relative positions of power and privilege in the following ways:

See the bigger picture. While Floyd’s murder is top of mind right now, we are also still mourning the deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Jamar Clark, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Stephon Clark, Botham Jean, Atatiana Jefferson, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and, sadly, the overwhelming list of others who will not — but deserved to — be named, here.

Do not reduce this to politics. This movement isn’t about politics; it is about our lives and our humanity.

Resist the urge to place qualifiers on black life. Black lives matter. Full stop.

Take immediate action.

• Attend a protest in your area.

• Donate to bail funds of protesters in your area.

• Sign up to be a legal observer.

Accept that it is not enough to be nonracist. Work to be antiracist.

Embrace the discomfort. You may feel uncomfortable discussing race, racism and other injustices. Lean into the discomfort and push back on problematic words, mindsets and actions from others, especially friends and family.

Remain critical. Consider the ways in which the law, common legal practices, policies and other systems are prejudiced or inequitable. Use your legal training and influence to change the law.

Be critical of the version of history you have been taught. Consider the stories and perspectives that have been excluded; ponder why they may have been left out and make time to learn more accurate, holistic versions of history.

Seek accountability. Do what you can to hold local elected officials and law enforcement accountable for enacting and enforcing more equitable laws and practices.

Vote. If you have the privilege to vote, be sure to do so and encourage others to as well.

Silence is acceptance; inaction is complicity. BLSA reaches out today to call to action our allies turned accomplices. We encourage members of the black community to lean into and experience each emotion; protect your energy at all costs. We ask every single individual and every organization to demand justice by any and all means within your power.

— Cortez S. Downey, president; Olivia Black, vice president; Tish Cooper, treasurer; and professor Lumen Mulligan, faculty adviser, Black Law Students Association, University of Kansas School of Law


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