Senator Holly Mitchell – “Fed Up”

When I saw the National Guard line the streets of Downtown LA, it stirred up a lot of emotions for me as a Black Angeleno. Having lived through the 65’ Watts Rebellion, the LA Uprising in 92’ and now the unrest we are witnessing after the public murder of George Floyd – I know that this fight is not new for us; it cuts across generations and is a sustained outcry for Black humanity to be seen, valued, and respected.

Black people make up only 13 percent of the total United States population, yet we are killed by police at more than twice the rate of White Americans. This is beyond unacceptable. To my fellow Angelenos and residents of the 30th Senate District, I want you to know that we have every right to be outraged and that our voices deserve to be heard and not hijacked by outside agitators that want to turn this discussion away from the main point – which is ending structural racism.

So how do we begin to change this? I believe it starts with being honest about our pain and calling out the racism and anti-blackness that’s at the heart of what we are witnessing in our country. The other part we must do is use our power to effectuate change. For me, as a policymaker, this means working to change every law, system, and policy that upholds White supremacy and endangers the lives of Black people.

As the only African American woman currently in the CA State Senate and the first to serve as Chair of the Senate Budget Review Committee, I’m not here to maintain the status quo. I have worked to pass landmark criminal justice reforms that increase transparency by making peace officer records available for public inspection and for the first time putting laws on the books that hold police accountable for excessive use of force. But there is still much work ahead of us. I know our families and communities deserve better and my colleagues in the state legislature who join me in making up the 10 members of the California State Legislative Black Caucus share this understanding.

Together, we have been working to right-size injustices with policies and laws that remove barriers to equality. Since the first Black legislator served in 1918, we have enacted groundbreaking legislation on behalf of the Black community. We too struggle against bias and have not won every battle, but, we persevere. We have to. This year we are working to pass the bills below and need your support:

Affirmative Action: ACA 5 (Weber) – Restoring equity and opportunity for Black businesses and Black students in California as well as women and other minorities.

Reparations: AB 3121 (Weber) – Directing investments from state settlements to help remedy generations impacted with inequality and discrimination.

Freeing the Vote: ACA 6 (McCarty) – Restoring voting rights for our formerly incarcerated brothers and sisters.

Department of Justice Deadly Force Oversight: AB 2917 (McCarty) – An independent entity to review and make available to the public reports of police misconduct. This has been proven to strengthen public trust and reduce incidents of unnecessary force.

Sheriff Oversight: AB 1185 (McCarty) – Strengthen existing citizen oversight bodies to help increase accountability, save lives and prevent expensive taxpayer settlements related to excessive use of police force.

I know that our work is far from done and we will never get the leadership or support we need from a Federal administration that prioritizes photo-ops over people. This is why local leadership matters and why it is so important to own our individual power. In addition to advocating for the bills shared above, here are two things that we can all do:

Get Counted: The Census is still happening. If you haven’t already completed your Census, you can do so here: Get counted to make sure our communities are properly resourced – which is needed more than ever as we rebuild from COVID-19.

Vote: In addition to electing our next President, there are key local races that will determine how we move forward from the health, economic, and justice pandemic we are facing. Don’t sideline your voice. Get the answers you need from the candidates on the ballot and vote. This election is too important for you not to be engaged.

The solutions we are fighting for will require that we all work together. As Killer Mike eloquently stated on May 29 in Atlanta, we have to “…plot, plan, strategize, organize and mobilize.” It’s not fair to place the burden of solving this crisis on the backs of those whose very lives are at stake. My constituents deserve courageous leadership. To me this looks like prosecuting law enforcement who murder our people, diverting funding from our state, county and city budgets from failing criminal justice systems, investing in our communities, and making it a non-negotiable for our public leaders and public departments to be culturally competent, inclusive, and truly respectful of all people.

We must end this incessant eulogy caused by a lack of regard for Black lives. Even though the root causes for the uprisings in ’65 and ’92 remain the same, our tools and how we organize are evolving. This sustains my hope and reminds me in the words of Sam Cooke, that a ‘change is gonna come’ and we will lead it.

State Senator Holly Mitchell published this op-ed in the Los Angeles Sentinel on June 4, 2020. It is reprinted here with permission.

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