As protests rage for the 13th straight day over the repeated and habitual police killings of Black people, BET is unpacking this historic moment with a primetime town hall on social justice on Sunday (June 7).
Justice Now: A BET Town Hall, hosted by Marc Lamont Hill, assembled a diverse panel, from politicians and academics to scholars to explore this timely issue. Guests include Stacey Abrams, former Georgia House Democratic Leader, Color of Change president Rashad Robinson, and Princeton University’s African American Studies professor Imani Perry.
Abrams opened the discussion, commenting that she’s not surprised by the police killing of George Floyd after seeing case-after-case of unarmed Black people killed at the hands of law enforcement.
“I wasn’t surprised, but my God. I’m saddened and I remain enraged along with everyone else,” she stated.
Floyd was the catalyst for this uprising that’s taking place across the nations for several reasons, Abrams said. His killing came on the heels of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. The video showing the brutal killing of Floyd also came against the backdrop of a pandemic that has disproportionately killed Black people, who are also on the frontlines doing essential work.
“People have had enough,” she added. “More will come if we don’t stop it today.”
She unloaded on President Donald Trump who called for a military response to protest. “He’s a coward and a bully using strongman tactics,” added Abrams, who is on Joe Biden’s shortlist for his vice president running mate.
The uprising against racist policing has drawn multi-racial crowds of protesters across the country. Historically, however, Whites have been silent despite recognizing the injustice against Black people.
“White people choose to not know certain things,” said Rutgers University Professor Brittney Cooper.
She added that white people are largely comfortable with their power. They are not ignorant about how the system works. Rather, they choose not to get involved. “You always have a choice to be the kind of White person you want to be,” Cooper continued.
The panel addressed the challenging question of how to design an agenda for change.
Color of Change president Rashad Robinson insisted that we must “put our money where our mouth is.”
He supports the movement to defund police departments. Robinson noted that police budgets have increased over the decades while lawmakers don’t hesitate to cut funding things like education and health care in communities of need.
“What we are dealing with are issues of power,” he said, adding that police unions are standing in the way of change.
He commented that police union representatives always pretend that they are unaware of abuses whenever a discussion is raised about reform.
Over the centuries, the trauma of being Black in America is passed on from generation to generation. But through that struggle, Princeton University professor Imani Perry said that Black people developed a resilient spirit that parents pass to their children, which teaches them not to accept white supremacy.
Former New York City police officer Corey Pegues added that Black parents should not “sugar coat” the realities of racism in America. “I want them to see everything,” he added.
Pegues believes that Black parents have to teach their kids how to deal with the racist people they will encounter in life. He lamented that Blacks are the only group in the nation who must teach their children what to do when stopped by the police.