This week in the year of 2020, people worldwide collectively raised their voices in outrage and marched in protest over the brazen murder of George Floyd and countless other Black men and women who have been the victims of racial violence, often by the hands, guns and knees of the police and the racist systems that empower, protect, and insulate them.
The Housing Rights Center stands with the Black Lives Matter movement and others who work tirelessly to protect Black people from police brutality and anti-Black violence and to provide justice for those who have suffered.
In 1968, the Housing Rights Center and other fair housing organizations were formed to combat the horrendous legacies of housing discrimination and U.S. government-sponsored redlining, which not only denied housing to Black people but also quashed any promises of an American Dream for Black communities as a whole. The fair housing movement gained momentum when, on April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated for standing up for the lives and rights of Black Americans. Mostly Black protestors took to the streets in more than 100 cities over the course of several days to mourn and denounce the murder of the civil rights leader and icon. It was because so much of the country was burning up in fire and despair that President Lyndon B. Johnson and a divided Congress knew they had to take a bold and far-reaching step to show the world that Dr. King’s work and legacy in advancing the rights of Black Americans was not in vain, and would be immortalized with the passage of this country’s last great piece of civil rights legislation: the Fair Housing Act of 1968. The Fair Housing Act did not stop housing discrimination, just as adopting or changing police procedures won’t completely or quickly eradicate anti-Black policing overnight, but the enforcement of change is needed and it must come now.
Change must come now because, more than 50 years later, hundreds if not thousands more Black men, women, and children have been murdered by police brutality and anti-Black violence. As a matter of fact, in May 2020, a police officer and his partners in Minneapolis had such little regard for Black life that they did not feel the need to hide under the darkness of night or the cloak of a white hood to kill a Black man. Instead, they defiantly glared back at witnesses and cameras in the light of day and, with perceived impunity, slowly took the life of yet another Black person, this one named George Floyd.
And yet, for many, the absolute outrage is not merely for the callous taking of Mr. Floyd’s life, but the clear realization that even in a city with a progressive young Mayor and a Black police chief, it took a video followed by days of protests, marching—and yes, violence—for those police officers to merely face charges (and, more likely than not, escape conviction) for a brazen act that has now been witnessed by millions. For many, the reaction to this murder feels different because the white outrage, the non-Black outrage, indeed the worldwide outrage about the murder of a Black man—a seemingly common Black man without wealth or fame—is evident and hopefully longstanding.
In Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail (1963), he wrote that the “great stumbling block in [the] stride toward racial justice is not [the KKK] but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers … the absence of tension to ... the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action.’” The Housing Rights Center hopes everyone will devote themselves to justice, understand that tension can be required for change, and agree with the movement to stop systemic racism by engaging in real action—now.
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