This week, a jury of Minnesotans found former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty in the murder of George Floyd. We are thankful that some measure of accountability has been delivered to his family, but deep in our hearts, we also know that more must be done to provide the kind of safety, security and justice he and so many others have been denied.
One guilty verdict doesn’t mean that racism embedded in our society has been purged from the criminal justice system. If it had, George Floyd — and Ma’Khia Bryant, Adam Toledo, Daunte Wright and too many others to name — would still be alive. Fear, power and prejudice continue to fuel deadly state violence.
The problem is systemic and so too must be the solution. This successful prosecution is one small step in a long journey. It should be painfully obvious that much work lies ahead of us to create a world where the lives of Black Americans are respected and our system holds everyone equal under the law, regardless of their position or power.
What can and what should philanthropy do?
4 Actions will make a difference
1. Make Space for Care: This is a time of great pain, frustration and hurt. It’s also a time to show care for your friend, your colleague, your neighbor — especially from Black and other communities of color — who have been and continue to be triggered and traumatized by systematic dehumanization and racism in all parts of life. Whether you are waking up to this reality or have long been involved in the struggle for basic civil and human rights, the toll on our collective health, energy and spirit is immense just the same.
2. Fund the Walk: It is a time to do more than empathize with Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian American and other communities that have been systematically discriminated, under-resourced and kept at the margins. Solidarity requires action, not just rhetoric. It is time to fund their service organizations, community groups, advocacy organizations and emerging leaders. It is time to put more money to the movements that are on the frontlines of the fight.
3. Commit to Dismantling White Supremacy: We know that to leave this nation better for succeeding generations, we must tackle and dismantle systemic racism and the white supremacy that is baked into the DNA of this country and its institutions of power, including philanthropy. It’s time to take a hard look at who and how we are funding and ask whether we can be doing better.
4. Redefining Safety: It is time to financially support immediate, short-term and long-term efforts that redefine policing beyond the violence-based approach of traditional law enforcement. There are groups doing exciting work on this all over the country, including those in the city of Ithaca and Tompkins County that have developed a proposal that would create a public safety department that would deploy social workers and other experts to de-escalate situations and provide help without the threat of force. It is time to stop tinkering with the world as it is, but rather invest in leaders and efforts that are re-imagining the world as it could be.
Philanthropy must move quickly so that this verdict is not just a step in the right direction, but the impetus for a strong, sustained push towards justice. No one deserves to live in fear that their every interaction with law enforcement may result in their family becoming the next one to tearfully join the nation in awaiting yet another jury verdict. Now is the time to work together to urgently share and redirect resources that can change – and save – lives.
Aaron Dorfman is president and CEO of NCRP.