Statement on the Shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando CastilePublished on July, 58 2016
The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF US) Statement on the Shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile
On July 5 and 6, 2016, respectively, we were shocked by the senseless killing of two African-American men: Alton Sterling (Baton Rouge, Louisiana) and Philando Castile (Falcon Heights, Minnesota). The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF US) joins many others across the country to mourn the loss of these two men, who also have left families behind. Nearly two years ago, we were stunned by the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown’s death sparked off organized protests in Ferguson and across the nation. The recent killings of Sterling and Castile remind us again of the escalating cycle of racist violence against black bodies and demand that we, as individuals and collectively, reexamine our understanding and attitudes toward race relations in the United States, our relationship with one another, our roles in protecting the rights of all, and how we also consciously or unconsciously help to erode those rights.
In his sermon on Sunday, July 10, Pastor Frederick Douglas Haynes III of the African-American Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas told his congregation that reconciliation and healing that did not lead to change are not enough. While mentioning Tamir Rice, Walter Scott and Eric Garner, earlier victims of police violence, Pastor Haynes added, “You won’t have unity as long as you have structured injustice” (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/11/us/slain-officer-michael-smiths-church-in-dallas-calls-for-healing.html?_r=0). Structural injustice includes the economic inequality pervading our society, which has affected black and other minority communities the hardest; historically, they have faced discrimination in employment, education, and housing, and discrimination continues to this day.
Many of us have seen the horrific videos on social media and YouTube, but we acknowledge that brutality against African Americans has long existed despite the progress made with the Civil Rights Movement. Such brutality and easy application of force are indicative of, among other things, the continuing militarization of police forces around the country. In the past two years, we have been held hostage by the resulting violence of such militarization. The deaths of Trayvon Martin (Sanford, FL, 2012), Michael Brown (Ferguson, MO, 2014), members of the Emanuel AME Church (Charleston, SC, 2015), 49 Orlando Nightclub Latinxs (Orlando, FL, 2016), Delrawn Small (Brooklyn, NY, 2016), five Latinxs across the nation (2016), as well as Alton Sterling and Philando Castile underscore the increasing climate of racism, xenophobia, and homophobia in our society. This means that we must be resolute in our resistance to violence, any type of violence—racist or otherwise. We must work to end the wars waged against black bodies by racists. We must denounce and work to eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence against others. We demand the demilitarization of all police forces. We call for disarmament nationally and internationally because the militarization of our communities is an extension of a global war culture, whose consequential violence threatens us.
As social activists who advocate peace, justice, and equality for all, WILPF US condemns racism, homophobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia or any form of phobia and violence. We will speak out in the presence of such indignities because when one of us suffers, we all suffer. We stand together with other peace, civil, and human rights activists to challenge institutional racism and injustice.
We condemn the denial of the humanity and dignity of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
We recognize and condemn the recent shooting of police officers during a peaceful vigil rally for Alton Sterling and Philando Castile in Dallas, Texas. We mourn and agonize with the families of those who lost their lives or were wounded during this incident, which sadly reminds us that violence affects all of us.
We stand in solidarity with the families of the victims of these acts of gun violence to mourn their particular losses and our collective loss.
We applaud the US Department of Justice for initiating a probe on the killing of Alton Sterling (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/06/us/alton-sterling-baton-rouge-shooting... ) and urge the Department of Justice to also investigate the shooting of Philando Castile, which Mark Dayton, the governor of Minnesota, blames on “racial bias” (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jul/07/philando-castile-police-shooting-calls-justice-department-inquiry-fbi-minnesota-officers).
CALL TO ACTION: What you can do:
- Join other individuals or groups and write to the US Department of Justice to encourage the investigation of the killings.
- Organize or participate in a vigil for Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and remember the slain police officers.
- Recognize that many law enforcement officers discharge their duties ethically and work to combat systemic racism and other biases. Identify ways of working collaboratively with them to advance a peaceful and just society.
- Make a plea to resource personnel in all police departments via your legislators recommending that all police work applications include a history of community engagement and references that honor the applicant’s community involvement. In other words, police units should not hire applicants who do not have a verifiable history of community engagement. No community service, no job.
- Encourage your local administrative officers and politicians to require some diversity/inter-cultural or sensitivity or micro-aggression training for all persons who work in law enforcement. They should implement this as part of their plan for addressing race and intercultural relations. Officers who do not engage with the community or go through such training should be dismissed.
- Reexamine your own biases to reevaluate your understanding of race relations in the United States, your neighborhood, your workplace, and your organization(s). In what way(s) have you contributed to improving or impeding race relations? How have you helped your organization(s) address this problem? What is your attitude toward those in your organization whom you read as “different?”
The following additional suggestions, specifically for white people, come to us from several friends: Invite 10 friends to a gathering that you host. Prior to the gathering, e-mail each one of them an article to read regarding racial oppression, preferably related to a topic relevant to your community.
- Gather to discuss what you learned, your feelings, and how your privilege contributes to racism and its consequences.
- Pause, meditate, care for yourselves and each other, this is painful work.
Create an action plan to include:
- Each 10 people will contact 10 more people to call your local chief of police to inquire about department’s policies and practices on bias and racism. Ask for documentation.
- Write an op-ed to several local papers about what you found out.
- Donate your time and/or money to community groups that do this work every day.
- Repeat MONTHLY with 10 new people.
- Share your work. Invite your people to do the same.
- Remember it's up to you. Racism is a white people problem. You must be the ones to fix it.
Contact the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF US) at: firstname.lastname@example.org