6 essential readings on police violence

This week, police officers shot and killed two Black men, Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. In 2016 alone, police have killed 566 people in the United States. Protests are sweeping the nation with the demand for an end to racist police violence.

Here’s what we’re reading from powerful activists and writers across the country to help us understand our grief and anger, and continue to work for a world where Black lives matter.

Michael Brown’s Mom, on Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, by Lezley McSpadden, via The New York Times

“When their children are killed, mothers are expected to say something. To help keep the peace. To help make change. But what can I possibly say? I just know we need to do something. We are taught to be peaceful, but we aren’t at peace. I have to wake up and go to sleep with this pain everyday. Ain’t no peace. If we mothers can’t change where this is heading for these families—to public hearings, protests, un-asked-for martyrdom, or worse, to nothing at all—what can we do?”

Big Dreams and Bold Steps Toward a Police-Free Future, by Rachel Herzing, via Truthout

“Keeping the function of policing in focus—armed protection of state interests—increases clarity about what policing is meant to protect and whom it serves. Further, that clarity helps us reflect on what asking for police accountability really means. Police forces tend to be very accountable to the interests they were designed to serve, and those interests frequently clash with the interests of the communities targeted most aggressively by policing. Recognizing policing as a set of practices used by the state to enforce law and maintain social control and cultural hegemony through the use of force reveals the need for incremental changes that lead toward the erosion of policing power rather than reinforcing it. This recognition may also move us toward ways to reduce the impacts of the violence of policing without ignoring the serious issues that lead to violence within our communities.”

This is What White People Can Do to Support #BlackLivesMatter, by Sally Kohn, via Washington Post

“It is not up to Black Lives Matter, nor any movement led by and for communities of color, to make space for or articulate a vision for white people. The expectation that Black leaders and movements should automatically do so is a subtle extension of the sort of white-centric entitlement that gives rise to the need for such movements in the first place.”


The 2nd Amendment Is So White: What the Past 24 Hours Have Taught Me About Black People’s Right to Bear Arms, by Preston Mitchum, via The Root

“The Bill of Rights—the first 10 amendments to the Constitution—was written at a time when black people were legal property, and the application of those laws obviously doesn’t apply to anyone deviating from whiteness and maleness. Even though the Second Amendment supposedly applies to all American citizens, it is as much an example of white privilege as the open-carry laws associated with it. Gun culture is permeated by the intersection of white supremacy and the fragility of masculinity that is evident in the state-sanctioned violence endorsed by police officers.”

Diamond Reynolds on Police Detainment: 'I Was Not Allowed to Talk to Anybody, by Sameer Rao, via Colorlines

“’The police did this to our community,’ a distraught Reynolds told a gathering of supporters and media outside the Minnesota Governor's Residence in Saint Paul. ‘They took me off the scene. I was not allowed to talk to anybody, and up until 5 o'clock this morning when they dropped me off on my doorstep.’” 


Marc Lamont Hill & Mychal Denzel Smith: We Must End State Violence Against Black Bodies, via Democracy Now