Published:Wednesday, February 1, 2023
Today marks the beginning of Black Futures Month. And the ACLU-WA is here, prepared to recognize and honor the past, grapple with the present and look forward to the future we are building together.
Focusing on Black Futures allows us to hold what we know about Black history and weave that knowledge into our plans for action. As ever, I am awed by the vision and commitment of the team at the ACLU-WA. Working alongside community, we have built an organization that understands that equity and justice for Black people is a precursor to equity and justice for all people.
Even as leaders in other states suppress the teaching of the Black past, our work for Black futures is informed by the history of Black people in our nation. We know this is vital history that remains resonant today in so many systems of racist oppression.
So, as we mark the beginning of this month dedicated to imagining better futures for Black communities, we know that a true and deep commitment to Black futures requires investment in communities and proactive work. At the same time, there is work to be done to eliminate harms facing Black communities. I would like to share a sampling of the ACLU-WA’s work in service of Black futures:
- Reducing Police Violence and Strengthening Accountability: The murder of Tyre Nichols by police in Memphis last month is the latest tragic example of the toll exacted by centuries of violent, racist policing borne disproportionately by BIPOC communities. The ACLU-WA seeks to increase safety by ending unnecessary police violence and increasing accountability. The Traffic Safety for All bill provides funding for jurisdictions to shift focus away from fees, fines and punitive enforcement and towards helping people fix their vehicles to increase compliance and road safety. The bill also restricts police from pulling people over for low-risk violations and protects people from irrelevant questioning and unnecessary searches. In cases where officers have harmed people, we want to strengthen the ability to provide justice for victims of police misconduct and bring systemic change to departments. One bill creates a private right of action against law enforcement for violating the Washington constitution or state law, without the shield of qualified immunity. Another bill strengthens the Attorney General’s authority to investigate and hold accountable police departments and jails where there are systemic violations of the Washington constitution or laws.
- Banning Isolation and Restraint in Schools: The use of isolation and restraint in schools hurts our most vulnerable students – the ACLU-WA is pursuing legislation to stop these harmful practices. Along with our partners at Disability Rights Washington, we published a report this month detailing the disproportionate use of isolation and restraint against Black students, multi-racial students, low-income students, unhoused students, students in foster care and students with disabilities. In addition, the overwhelming majority of students subject to restraint and isolation practices are in elementary school (K-5). House Bill 1479 / Senate Bill 5559 seeks to eliminate the practice of isolation of students in schools. It would also make the use of restraining students safer by eliminating both mechanical and chemical restraint in Washington schools.
- Building Generational Wealth: In partnership with our colleagues at National ACLU, we’re working to pass a “baby bonds” bill proposed by the Washington State Treasury which would invest state funds on behalf of every child born into poverty. The money – the equivalent of about $30,000 in today’s dollars – would then be available for higher education, home ownership or starting a small business. An initiative supported by the ACLU’s Systemic Equality Campaign, baby bonds allow the state to address generations of systemic inequality by building wealth in BIPOC communities.
- Reparations: We join in the ACLU’s continued, nationwide effort to get Congress to pass H.R. 40. The legislation, if enacted, would establish a commission to study reparations and develop proposals for issuing them to the descendants of American slavery’s victims. Such a move would be a great step in acknowledging and resolving the effects of slavery, which are still felt today.
Throughout Black Futures Month, we will be offering deeper dives into some of this work to help you learn more about what we can do together to secure brighter futures for Black Washingtonians; such work creates a state where all people can thrive.
Thanks to all of you, the fight continues for a society dedicated to Black futures defined by equity, justice, and joy.
Executive Director, ACLU of Washington