What’s at Stake in 2020: Racial Justice

by Vanessa Butterworth

October 30, 2020

Every leader in this country must address this country’s racist past—most importantly, police must stop killing Black people now.

Greenpeace US activists walk a large Black Lives Matter banner down 16th NW toward the White House. Activists on the streets adopted the banner chanting "Make Way For The Flag" as they moved it through the massive crowds to the fence in front of Lafayette Square near the White House. On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a black man, was killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States. During an arrest, Derek Chauvin, a white American police officer, kept his knee on the side of Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes while Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down. During the last three minutes, Floyd was motionless. After Floyd's death, demonstrations and protests against racism and police brutality were held across the US and the world, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the movement and gathering restrictions put in place by governments to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

© Tim Aubry / Greenpeace

Another Black life was taken by the police on Monday. His name was Walter Wallace, Jr. His mother’s pleas rang out in the streets that afternoon and now, over the media — Don’t shoot my son! — and there are still no answers.

Why were police sent to handle a mental health crisis? When will Black people be able to move through the world without fear of losing their life or the life of a loved one? How many more Black lives will be taken until this changes? What will we each do to make sure Black Lives Matter and police killings end? With the 2020 election just 4 days away, voting up and down the ballot for leaders who will legitimately take on racism in the U.S. is a small but imperative first step. Lives depend on it.

make a plan to vote

Since the beginning of the year, tens of thousands of people have loudly condemned police violence and the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Atatiana Jefferson, Tony McDade, Aura Rosser, Stephon Clark, Philando Castile, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, and so many others.

Voices online and in the streets have been resounding — Black Lives Matter! — and calls to defund the police have gained traction nationwide.

Bloated police departments are being called out for using desperately-needed public resources against Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities. District attorneys who refuse to prosecute police violence are being put on blast. Mayors are under extreme pressure to defund the police and invest in what keeps communities safe, healthy, and housed. Local leaders across the country have been put on notice — and many of those people are on your ballot where you live.

We need a just and fair world for everyone — and voting for leaders who will end racism is an essential first step. This is a matter of life and death for Black people.

In order to move forward and value every single life on this planet, we need systems that put people first, not concentrated and powerful institutions like police unions or the wealthy. We need every single leader in this country to address this country’s racist past and all the institutions built on it. And, most importantly, we need police to stop killing Black people now.

To do this, we need a fundamental change in how leaders speak to and act on racism in this country.

Across the country, calls for systemic change are gaining ground, and to implement them it’s going to take leaders at the local, state, and national level to genuinely fight for justice. Sadly, all of that becomes harder when Trump continues to dig in with his racist dog whistles, create divisive chaos, and call in armed militias. And, all you need to do is look to his history to see that his racism is nothing new.

That’s why it’s so important to vote and make sure every single one of your friends and family members vote too. We need a just and fair world for everyone — and voting out Trump is the first step. Ensure that your vote against racism and Trump is counted.

make a plan to vote

As the deadline for voting approaches, we’re pulling out all the stops to make sure that you, your friends, family, neighbors, and every environmental voter has their voice heard before the polls close. Our “What’s at Stake” series highlights a key issue that’s on the ballot. If you haven’t voted yet, now is the time. If people in your circle are on the fence, please share this post or have a conversation with them today.

Vanessa Butterworth

By Vanessa Butterworth

Vanessa currently works as the Senior Digital Strategist at Greenpeace and sits on the Rising Tide North America organizing team. Outside of paid work, she organizes with frontline groups against police brutality, gentrification, and environmental racism. Over the past ten years, she's worked on campaign, mobilization, direct action, and movement strategy across the US and Canada. She's originally from Mississauga of the New Credit Territory as known as Caledon, Ontario, but now lives in Oakland, California on Ohlone Territory.

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