Students for a Democratic Society at the University of Minnesota demands justice for unarmed 19-year old Tony Robinson who was killed by police Friday March 6 by police in Madison, WI and an end to all racism and injustice plaguing our campuses and communities across the country.
UMN SDS stands in support of students in Madison and everywhere who are standing up and walking out to demand justice. Justice begins in every community with equal access to resources. Youth of color are subjected to the injustice of major failures of education from the achievement gap to the school-prison-pipeline when young people of color are criminalized. They are also subjected to an opportunity gap in higher education and access to equal economic opportunities. Finally they are subjected to the repression and violence of the state through racist police practices seen in the forms of harassment, violence and disproportionate policing of communities of color.
People of color are confronted with injustice and inequalities in every aspect of American society from the education and legal systems to the capitalist economic structure that puts profits over people. In education for example students of color face a major achievement gap in a system that excludes and marginalizes their culture, history and values. In Minnesota for example, amongst the worst states in the education achievement gaps graduation rates for ELL students is 64%, 60% for Latino/Latina students, 60% for black students, and 50% for American Indian students.
Nationally students of color are disproportionately disciplined for activities that are no different than their white peers. Black boys for example are 3.5x more likely to be suspended. They account for 46% of suspensions while composing only 18% of the student population nationally. This is due to racist practices institutionally and also racist practices from teachers individual bias. These systems and practices criminalize youth of color and contribute to higher drop out rates for students of color disrupting their potential for success.
In the legal system injustice and inequality are best demonstrated by incarceration rates. The US incarcerates the higher proportion of its population in the world. The US accounts for 25% of the worlds prison population while only having 5% of the world’s population. Of the 1.2 million people in prison 58% are people of color.
While only 12% of the total US population is black over 40% of those arrested are black. Black men are incarcerated at a rate 6x higher than their white peers. One in ten black men have been incarcerated in the US. Studies and research have found consistently that the rate at which crimes are committed is constant across racial demographics but enforcement is disproportionately focused on communities of color and communities in poverty. The recent DOJ reports about Ferguson highlight this fact but also offer a case study that is institutionally routine across the US today.
People of color are also more likely to be killed by the police. These are the results of systemic and routine practices. Over the past 40 years a black person is on average 4.2x more likely to get shot and killed by law enforcement than whites. While 13% of the US is black, they account for 26% of police killings. American Indians are the most likely oppressed nationality to by killed by police in the United States. They account for .8% of the national population but 1.9% of police killings. These “justifiable homicides” are nothing more than systematic murders rubber-stamped by the legal system echoing a long history of racist violence and terrorism in US history.
Economic inequalities have been consistently maintained since the days when US capitalism boomed on a slave based economy. Since 1989 peak values of wealth ratios were reached and have been in decline ever since. For example he unemployment rate nationally has fallen around 5% in 2014 but is below 5% for white communities while remaining at over 10% for black communities and over 6% for Latino/Latina communities. The median wealth of white households in 13 times greater then that of the median wealth of black households and 10 times greater than that of Latino/Latina households. In the years since the end of the “great recession” in 2010 median household earnings have fallen in the black community by over 50%. Median wealth has fallen as well representing both a decrease in earnings and savings. Across all communities of color in the US since 2010 median household incomes have fallen. Home ownership rates have likewise fallen for communities of color.
These trends represent a renewal of segregation in US society that represents systemic oppression and exploitation of communities of color. The results are felt in communities like Madison, WI not only when their youth are killed but in everyday life.
Madison is only a short distance away from Wisconsin’s largest city Milwaukee, one of the US’s most segregated cities. A city where police have routinely terrorized communities of color and killed unarmed citizens. Among them is Dontre Hamilton, a 31 year old suffering from mental illness who was murdered in a downtown park. Another is Derek Williams who died in the custody of Milwaukee police pleading for help because he could no breathe. Milwaukee police have a long and well-documented history of brutality towards communities of color.
These practices of police brutality are only symptoms of the greater social injustices and racism in US society today. Racism and inequalities are the plagues of systems of colonialism, imperialism and capitalism ravaging our social fabric today. We must end racism and injustice across our society by challenging them everywhere they exist. Every institution perpetuating these plagues must be challenged and SDS stands firmly opposed to it anywhere it exists. We’re committed to taking on racism and injustice on our campuses, in our communities and across our country or anywhere else it exists.
We demand justice for Tony Robinson and all those brutally murdered by police and state violence. We demand an end to the harassment, intimidation and attacks on communities of color. We demand and end to all practices of racism individually and collectively in our society. We affirm our commitment to the struggle for justice and the destruction of racism! When communities of color are under attack, we join with those who stand up and fight back!