[Original Release Date: Friday, July 15th, 2016]
The Virginia Anti-Violence Project (VAVP) stands in solidarity with the Black and Brown communities affected by the recent state-sanctioned violence in Louisiana and Minnesota.
VAVP wants individuals and communities of color in Virginia and across this country, who are systematically harassed, marginalized, and disproportionately the victims of violence at the hands of the state, to understand that we see you, we support you, and we will continue to fight on your behalf. To document and illustrate this reality, in 2015, The Washington Post conducted a yearlong study of fatal shootings by police officers, a project prompted by the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Although the majority of victims brandishing a weapon were white, the study found that 3 out of 5 victims “exhibiting less threatening behavior were black or Hispanic,” which means that police officers are more likely to use their service weapons against unarmed individuals of color than whites.
As an organization whose mission is to address and prevent all forms of violence against Virginia’s diverse LGBTQ+ communities, the Virginia Anti-Violence Project understands first-hand the adverse effects of violence and trauma on historically oppressed and marginalized communities. Over the last year, VAVP has intentionally worked to center communities of color within our anti-violence framework by meeting individuals in spaces where they need us the most. We are committed to continuing this work and to being intentionally and intersectionally visible for those individuals and communities that continue to be systematically dehumanized.
The recent acts of violence in Louisiana and Minnesota continue to express to Black and Brown communities that their existence is irrelevant in the face of state-sanctioned power. The hollow rhetoric that continually calls for marginalized communities to comply, submit, and show respect to authority is a tone-deaf response toward a people whose survival is punished by the regular, systematic dehumanization and unbridled reality of state-sanctioned violence. It is not the responsibility of the oppressed to explain their right to freedom, their right to life, or their right to exist.
Specifically, VAVP is calling on those who identify as allies of these communities to join us in holding public service officials/systems and law enforcement agencies accountable to change public policy, including, but not limited to: rigorous and sustained training for law enforcement on implicit bias, procedural justice, relationship-based policing, and de-escalation; a meaningful commitment to civilian community oversight; specific restrictions in the use of force; and the ending of a decades-long focus on policing minor crimes and activities that has led to the over-policing and criminalization of communities of color and the use of excessive force in otherwise harmless situations.
It is no longer enough for organizational allies to say that Black Lives Matter, without actively working to center individuals and communities of color in their leadership, programming, and advocacy. Choosing to remain silent in the face of xenophobia, Islamophobia, and racist rhetoric and violence against Black and Brown communities has long proved to be deadly. If you are currently residing in the United States, there is no more appropriate time than now to reflect upon the words of James Baldwin and “criticize it perpetually.”
VAVP offers services to LGBTQ+ individuals that have been impacted by intimate partner abuse, sexual assault, and stalking, as well as hate/bias motivated harassment and violence. VAVP also has resources to support training and consultation with agencies, community groups, congregations, and other interested organizations. For more information on the Virginia Anti-Violence Project, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (804) 925-9242. If you are LGBTQ+-identified and you have been impacted by violence, you can also call the 24-hour, toll-free, confidential Virginia LGBTQ Partner Abuse and Sexual Assault Helpline at 1-866-356-6998.