We are appalled and devastated by the recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and Sean Reed by police officers, and the killing of Ahmaud Arbery by a former police officer. We stand in solidarity with Black youth, families, and communities across the nation protesting this brutality and demanding justice.
These modern-day lynchings are part of a history of racist violence against Black Americans tracing back to what our founder calls the birth defects of our nation: slavery, racism, and oppression. To achieve a just future for our children and our nation, we must confront and dismantle the systems and structures that perpetuate racism. This means not only reforming policing and the criminal justice system, but also confronting our unjust economic and political systems that create deep disparities in income, housing, education, health and well-being and harm our children and families of color.
Born out of the Civil Rights Movement, the Children’s Defense Fund and its mission to leave no child behind has always been and will always be rooted in the pursuit of racial justice. We know that we will never achieve our mission to ensure every child a safe, healthy, fair and moral start in life and safe passage to adulthood without confronting and dismantling institutionalized racism in America. We also know that our children are watching and learning from what is happening, and how we as a nation respond to this moment of reckoning.
For nearly 50 years we have stood with Black communities leading the fight for justice. We commit to listening to and amplifying the voices of people of color within and outside our organization—especially young people. We are calling on Congress to move immediately to pass meaningful police reform legislation to protect the lives of Black children, youth and adults. We are sharing resources from CDF Freedom Schools that empower children of color to embrace their identities and their power to make a difference—and help all children understand the history and legacy of Black Americans. And we will continue to fight every day for justice for our children.
The fight for racial justice is a moral imperative and a struggle that belongs to all of us. For those of us working toward a better and more just future for our children, it is the most important struggle we face. Every American must stand up and stand together now to demand change.
As we move forward, we reflect on the words of our founder, Marian Wright Edelman, written in 2014 in response to the police killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, but just as relevant today.
“Democracy cannot breathe, and will die, if those enjoined to protect and uphold the law snuff it out unjustly and without consequence. Justice cannot breathe when Black men and boys and women and girls are routinely profiled, abused, arrested, and killed with impunity by police officers. We must stop this. We must protect the lives of our young people—all of them. God did not make two classes of people or children and America continues to do so at its peril.”
Patrick Bresette, Executive Director, CDF-Texas
Oleta Fitzgerald, Executive Director, CDF-Southern Regional Office
Shimica Gaskins, Executive Director, CDF-California
Max Lesko, National Executive Director, Children’s Defense Fund
Tracy Nájera, Executive Director, CDF-Ohio
Naomi Post, Executive Director, CDF-New York
Bharti Wahi, Executive Director, CDF-Minnesota