Enough is Enough: We Demand Quality Policing Now

The Organization for Black Struggle 

Originally post on obs-onthemove.org, December 3, 2014.

Today American justice has failed yet again. Our legal system has denied justice to the family of Eric Garner less than forty-eight hours after President Barack Obama met with African-American activists calling for an end to police brutality and murder. Fifty years after the Civil Rights Movement we are still in pursuit of justice. We are still confronting what Dr. King called, the triple evils of militarism, racism and capitalism.

Instead of using his presidential powers to transform a culture of injustice into one of real justice, President Obama has offered us a measly $263 million dollars worth of timid, half-hearted, half-measures.

The President promises us 50,000 body cameras as if dozens of police executions have not played out live on video all across the nation. We have witnessed a police culture so steeped in racism that video footage alone is not enough to deter it. Eric Garner died on camera, and even with this evidence, he was denied justice.

The President promises us community policing, as if he cannot grasp the reality that police are recruited, trained, deployed and advanced within a racist police culture that would rather kill citizens, than serve them. This militarized police culture values property more than human lives. It does not build community or protect citizens. Instead it treats us as threats to be policed and targets to be eliminated.

The President promises us that the Department of Justice will be more stringent in their oversight of programs like the 1033 Program that grant billions of dollars to defense contractors and aim military weapons at civilians. It is as if President Obama does not understand that he should be eliminating such weapons from American streets. These deadly weapons do not belong in our communities. They are the point where militarism, capitalism and racism all come together. These programs militarize our police, who then turn around and repress black and brown communities, and anyone else who expresses their First Amendment Rights.

We call on the President to embrace our Quality Policing Initiative, which will transform police culture in this country so that the First and Fourth Amendment rights of citizens are protected. Do not waste our tax dollars on weak reforms that support a racist, militarized police culture, which would rather protect property than serve people.

The Quality Policing Initiative demands reciprocal, professional, accountable and cooperative policing in five areas of policing:

(1)     Recruitment: who is on the force;

(2)     Training: what non-violent skillsets do officers possess;

(3)     Deployment: how officers interact with the communities whose rights they protect;

(4)     Accountability: what happens to an officer who abuses their power or makes a mistake in the course of their duties and;

(5)     Advancement: how an officer is rewarded for protecting rights and not advanced for failing to do so.

The broad outlines of the Quality Policing Initiative include:

  • Residency Requirements and rigorously enforced Affirmative Action hiring protocols to create racial and gender parity so that the police reflect the population they are policing.
  • Conflict Resolution and Threat Progression Training: So that police officers know how to deescalate a situation instead of having to use violent or deadly force.
  • Demilitarizing All Police Forces: Withdraw from the DOD 1033 program and end the use of the Forfeiture/Seizure Program to buy military grade gear.
  • Stopping the Use of Police as Collection Agents: Remove ticket quotas and fees and fines as primary mechanisms to fund municipal governments.
  • Implementation of field contact cards: Track every interaction, every officer has with every citizen, and record the reason for the interaction, the race of both parties, the location and results, so that we will have a pattern of practice for every police department in the country.  
  • An Early Warning System Database on Police Behavior:  A system that identifies officers who are overly aggressive and/or suspect in the use of their authority before they become a threat to the community.
  • Media Accountability System: Body and Dash cameras, with recorded data controlled by a Citizen’s Review Board and shared with the community and police simultaneously. 
  • A Citizen’s Review Board: A local entity with subpoena, investigatory and prosecutorial powers. The Board should also have a role in developing police policies and setting standards that impact all five areas of policing power.

We call on the President to use the power of the Department of Justice to partner with the National Bar Association and other civil rights and policing reform entities to investigate the patterns and practices of police forces and where needed monitor, disband, and reconstitute them as outlined in our Quality Policing Initiative.

We call on the President to use the power of the Department of Justice to compel every police municipality to comply with the National Bar Association—the nation’s oldest and largest national network of predominantly African-American attorneys and judges—which has filed open records requests for any and all information about the following:

1. The number of individuals who have been killed.

2. The number of individuals who have been racially profiled.

3. The number of individuals who have been wrongfully arrested.

4. The number of individuals who have been injured while pursued or in police custody.

5. Any and all background information on officers involved in the incidents.

6. Comprehensive data from crime scenes, including “video and photographic evidence related to any alleged and/or proven misconduct by current or former employees.”

This moment demands that we continue to resist until justice is done! We call on the President to act NOW, tomorrow is too late!

September 3, 2019

Capitalism and Racism: Conjoined Twins

By Marjona Jones, Co-Chair of Funders for a Just Economy and Senior Program Officer at Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock

Marjona Jones speaking at a podium.

A few weeks ago, Democracy Now! aired a segment with Ibram X. Kendi, author and founding director of the Anti-Racist Research and Policy Center at American University, where he discussed white supremacy, anti-racism, and the increase in mass shootings. What struck me about the segment was his illuminating statement about the origins of capitalism. Kendi views capitalism and racism as "conjoined twins" and that “…the origins of racism cannot be separated from the origins of capitalism… the life of capitalism cannot be separated from the life of racism.”

Kendi continued by discussing how the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade allowed for the massive accumulation of wealth in Europe and the Americas. Centuries of wage theft, trading in human bondage, insurance claims on "lost" cargo, and reparations for slave owners after emancipation entrenched this capitalist system with inequities based on race built into it. Slave owners protected their concentrated wealth by shaping our socio-economic and legal systems to benefit themselves and the industry of slavery, as well as limit democracy.

As I celebrate the worker movement’s victories on Labor Day this year, this segment and past conversations with grantees has triggered an important question for me: What does the notion that capitalism and racism are inextricably linked mean for our work as funders of racial and economic justice? Our grantee partners tell us how workers are implicated in the entangled web of these “conjoined twins” of racism and capitalism. Many worker-based organizations state that the best vehicle this country has in pursuit of economic justice is through organizing workers, but traditional labor hasn’t always been the best vehicle for racial justice. As Bill Fletcher Jr. and Fernando Gapasin discuss in Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice, while many unions integrated in the 1920s, some unionists decided to resist integration to ensure wins and job quality for white workers. These traditionalists understood the idea of “conjoined twins.”

Racial and economic justice movements have exposed exploitative and extractive practices within capitalism, making it less secure to accumulate wealth through those means. However, as Michelle Alexander points out in her book, The New Jim Crow, exposing capitalism for what it is forces it to transform and evolve. For example, following the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, agriculture was still the main economic engine, and free exploited labor was needed for this industry to survive. Capitalism evolved while maintaining its racist and exploitative roots through policymakers passing the Black Codes of 1865 and 1866, making it easier to imprison recently freed slaves to continue that supply of free labor.

We are catching up to the fact that capitalism was never meant to work for everyone. What will the next evolution in capitalism bring as our movements fight even harder for racial and economic justice in the face of harm to workers and marginalized communities?

Funders for a Just Economy (FJE) has created an intentional space to begin discussing what these questions mean for our work and the grantees we support. Capitalism’s origin story is a critical part of analyzing how this system operates. By acknowledging the “conjoined twins,” we acknowledge the role of race and the legacy of slavery. FJE believes that there is a renewed opportunity to support a working-class movement that builds the power of all workers, especially Black, Trans and LGBQ workers, women, and immigrants—and lift their role as the main strategists to change the system. If we believe another world is possible, then so is another system that bakes in justice, equity, and respect.


Join FJE for these conversations and more at the upcoming Racial Capitalism, Power and Resistance event on October 17 & 18 in Brooklyn, NY. More information and registration link here.

Stay tuned for an upcoming Power Building Study Group for Neighborhood Funders Group members, and the Disrupt the System: How Labor and Philanthropy can Build Worker Power in a New Era event co-convened by the AFL-CIO, the LIFT Fund, and FJE on December 11 in Washington, DC. More information coming soon!

August 15, 2019

Beyond Outrage: A Clarity of Purpose

Dimple Abichandani, Executive Director of the General Service Foundation, urges grantmakers and the philanthropic sector to take concrete actions to defend democracy and speak out against racist attacks on people of color. This post was originally published here on the foundation's website.

Dimple was part of the first Philanthropy Forward: Leadership for Change Fellowship cohort, a joint initiative of Neighborhood Funders Group and The Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. General Service Foundation, which partners with grassroots organizations to bring about a more just and sustainable world, is a member of NFG.


Dimple AbichandaniWe live in dangerous times, and every passing news cycle contains another outrage, another violation of norms, another threat to our democracy, another threat to our planet.  

In the face of escalating racial attacks, (be it imprisonment of kids on the border or the racist rhetoric being tweeted from the white house) many have noted, rightly, that philanthropy as a sector has been too cautious and too quiet.  The Communications Network, in it’s recent piece, Silence Speaks Volumes, calls on foundations to use their voices in this moment.

Yes, it’s meaningful for people from all sectors of our society to condemn the Administration’s attacks on people of color.  And, for those of us working in the philanthropic sector, these times call on us to use all of our tools in defense of our inclusive, multi-racial democracy.  We are more than commentators or observers– as funders, our role is to resource a more just and equitable future. What we do in this moment will be far more important than what we say.  

As painful as this moment is, it is also a time in which the work to be done has become more clear. The vulnerability of our democracy has become more clear.  Racial anxiety and social divisions are being stoked in order to prop up a reckless system that benefits only the wealthiest. As we condemn the most recent of a long list of outrages, can we also use this moment to deepen our own clarity of purpose, and ensure that our funding will bring about a more just future? 

As funders, we can not only speak out but also take action to bolster our inclusive democracy.

  1. Support those most directly impacted by injustice. Instead of wielding of our own voice and power as a foundation, we can support those most directly impacted by injustice to build their voice, power, and leadership. They must lead the way to a more just world; it is our job to uplift and resource their visions and voices. National organizations such as Color of Change, New American Leaders, and National Domestic Workers Alliance, regional and state-based organizations such as Western States Center, Black Voters Matter and Workers Defense Project and so many others are seeding a future in which racial, gender and economic justice will be the norm.
  2. Invest in the creation and dissemination of narratives that reshape cultural attitudes around belonging in our country.  The recent escalation in the use of racist and sexist rhetoric is not happening in a vacuum– rather it builds on broader public narratives shaped by white supremacy and male dominance.  We need to normalize new narratives that humanize all of us, that value all of us. Organizations such as the Pop Culture CollaborativeReFrame, and the Culture Change Fund, for example, build capacity for narrative equity and culture shift.
  3. Question the default funding habits and practices that limit us from making a bigger impact in this moment. As funders, we sometimes have a blind spot for how our internal practices create unnecessary burdens and barriers for organizations that do the important work we support. This moment calls on us to question our practices, shift to ways of working that account for the gravity of the problems we face, and center the people who are leading the social change efforts we support. Could your foundation increase its payout, provide more general operating support, increase the length of grants, and minimize busywork for grantees? Could you shift your grant strategy to more boldly meet the moment or more directly address the imbalances of power in our society? The Trust Based Philanthropy Network has tools and stories of inspiration from foundations who have increased their impact by changing their practices.

So many of us in philanthropy are eager to do something meaningful in this tumultuous time.  Let’s challenge ourselves to use this moment to put our institutional values into practice. Let’s walk the walk as boldly as we talk the talk.