Editorial: Why racism never died, racism still kills — and how to change that

Editorial: Why racism never died, racism still kills — and how to change that

Written by The Signal Staff • June 5, 2020

Months ago, The Signal took a stand against the glorification of bygone racists, calling for Mayor of Atlanta Keisha Lance Bottoms to remove the statue of Henry Grady in downtown from display. 

Today, we are taking a stand against the racism that never ceased to exist.

On February 23 in South Georgia, Ahmaud Arbery was running in a neighborhood near his home when two men chased him down, shot and killed him. 

On March 13 in Louisville, police entered the home of Breonna Taylor with a no-knock warrant, shot her eight times and killed her. 

On May 25 in Minneapolis, police arrested George Floyd after accusing him of using a counterfeit $20 bill, and an officer pinned him to the ground with his knee on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds and killed him.

On May 30, in our own city of Atlanta, a group of Atlanta Police Department officers approached a car with two students from our neighboring colleges — Taniyah Pilgrim from Spelman College and Messiah Young from Morehouse College — broke the car windows, tased them both and pulled them out of the car with “excessive force.”

And while it in no way compares to the lives lost, it would be irresponsible as a newspaper to not mention a second event also at the hands of our local APD, when two journalists — Alyssa Pointer, a Black woman, and Haisten Willis, a White man — were arrested and detained last weekend while covering the protest for both local and national papers.

The ignorance that keeps a statue like Grady’s standing is the same ignorance that helps keep systemic oppression alive and well because these names are only those of a few subject to it. No one can pretend that these incidents are isolated anymore and say they don’t see how they are all connected by the same thread.

Written by The Signal staff • June 5, 2020

The thread that was once a rope tied around the necks of Black people has now morphed into the knee pressed on George Floyd’s neck.

The fact that this deep-rooted racism is allowed to exist at all in America is the reason why racism never died; racism still kills.

In response to these deaths, protests have taken place across the nation and in our own city for days. These protesters aren’t protesting because they are brave; they are protesting because Black people are scared — so much so that they would face a pandemic to have their voice heard.

While the large majority of participants are engaging in peaceful protests, there are a select few who have been rioting and engaging in theft. But they are not identical, and they are not equal in quantity.

Moreover, the violence and destruction from these protests will never equal the violence of all the Black lives lost to police brutality. 

Even if you don’t condone or encourage destruction, you have to understand that the merchandise of billion-dollar corporations can be easily replaced, but those Black lives can not. Many are rightfully warning participants to not take out their anger on the communities and people you are fighting for.

We are focusing on the wrong issue if we say that “it’s horrible that man was killed but businesses can’t be destroyed anymore” but not that “it’s horrible that businesses were destroyed but Black people can’t be killed anymore.”

To say Black people have the right to riot in a country they built for free doesn’t even cut it. This country — this city — wasn’t built for free; it was built with their literal blood, sweat, tears and lives.

Douglas Blackmon, a professor who teaches at Georgia State, has written a Pulitzer Prize-winning book that details the depth of how the “South’s Finest City” and its leadership abused Black lives through the convict leasing system to quite literally build Atlanta.

During the early 1900s across 14 camps, Blackmon finds that at least 3,464 men and 130 women lived in explicit forced labor in Georgia. Whether constructing railroads, making bricks for the streets of the city or contributing to the economic wealth of the state and powerful white men, Atlanta was a city that abused Black people long after slavery ended.

These protests are more than just a response to police brutality; they are also a response to generations of racial injustice.

The recent deaths have proven that violence is the primary language the police know how to speak, and sometimes, a peaceful response isn’t going to send the message when the conversation has been so violent from the start.

Even Martin Luther King Jr., so lauded for his non-violent approach to protests, understood that riots are “the language of the unheard.”

“Now I wanted to say something about the fact that we have lived over these last two or three summers with agony and we have seen our cities going up in flames. And I would be the first to say that I am still committed to militant, powerful, massive non­-violence as the most potent weapon in grappling with the problem from a direct action point of view. I’m absolutely convinced that a riot merely intensifies the fears of the white community while relieving the guilt. And I feel that we must always work with an effective, powerful weapon and method that brings about tangible results. But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.” – Martin Luther King Jr., Sep. 27, 1966

But today we aren’t advocating for violence, destruction or even peaceful protests — while these bring attention to the problem, they too are for a purpose, as is this letter. 

We are demanding change. A systemic problem warrants a systemic solution. And while racism in America can not be uprooted in a single day, many organizations have come forward with actionable plans to directly address the immediate concern of police violence.

At The Signal, we honor the ethics and necessity of honest reporting. But we believe that acknowledging systemic racism, condemning police brutality and not wanting any more Black lives to be lost is non-partisan. 

Campaign Zero has established ten categories for policy solutions that do one of three things: limit police interventions, improve community interactions and ensure accountability.

According to the campaign, across the nation, three pieces of legislation have been passed to address two areas of concern, to limit the use of force and provide body cams to film the police. On the state level in Georgia, three bills, relating to two areas — to independently investigate and prosecute and provide body cams to film to the police — have been passed.

At both the federal and state level, there are eight proposed policy solutions that have yet to be addressed. And while we hope change can be made there, as Campaign Zero also acknowledges: “It will take deliberate action by policymakers at every level of government to end police violence.”

That’s why they’ve also begun the project 8 Can’t Wait. This outlines eight policy proposals that can be implemented by local governments, mayors and police chiefs to reduce police violence now

In their research, they find that the implementation of all eight policies “can decrease police violence by 72%.” These eight policies are:

  1. Ban chokeholds and strangleholds
  2. Require de-escalation
  3. Require warning before shooting
  4. Require exhaust all alternatives before shooting 
  5. Duty to intervene
  6. Ban shooting at moving vehicles
  7. Have a use of force continuum
  8. Require comprehensive reporting

In Atlanta, only two of these policies have been implemented, the first and seventh on that list.

Atlanta is not a model city. When comparing America’s 100 largest cities, 76% have more policies in place than Atlanta, and only 9% are worse. 

While it is up to our leaders to make a change, as a reader you can do your part too. Yes, protest, express your fundamental right of speech and take time to process the pain you and your communities are experiencing. But if you want to do more, you can.

The campaign has provided clear directions to contact the Mayor of Atlanta and advocate for this change yourself, or you can donate to them and their cause or organizations you support.

Directions to contact Mayor of Atlanta Keisha Lance Bottoms to support #8Can’tWait.

There are six things the Mayor of Atlanta can do now to make a difference. Today, we are calling on her to enact all six remaining policies in the 8 Can’t Wait campaign and show that Atlanta doesn’t just stand with protesters, it stands for them. 

Mayor Bottoms, before we asked for the removal of a statue. But now, that is nowhere near enough. Today, we are asking you to make Atlanta a model city.

In the past, when we asked for incremental change to prove that Grady and other bygone racists don’t define who Atlanta is today, those words went unheard. We believe in Atlanta and we believe in you; that you have the heart to use your position of power for systematic change.

Mayor Bottoms, if you love this city, don’t tell us to go home. We too are proud that Atlanta has a long legacy of Black mayors — let’s hope that means something today.


The Signal

The Black Student Alliance at Georgia State

Neo Network, PRN and NeoN

Underground Journal

New South Journal

Student Management for Album 88

Georgia State Student Government Association Office of the President, Kaelen Thomas

Georgia State University Student Government Association Office of the Atlanta Executive Vice President, Takia Tinsley

Georgia State University Student Government Association Office of the Alpharetta Executive Vice President, Muskan Virani

Georgia State University Student Government Association Office of the Decatur Executive Vice President, Mariyah Cummings

The Young Democrats of Georgia State


About this story: In a Black-led discussion, 15 staff members of The Signal came together to write an editorial that was passionate, supported by facts and with purpose. Six other student organizations signed onto the letter, including  the entirety of Student Media and Student Government Association representatives for multiple campuses.

Editor’s Note: “WRAS-Atlanta is licensed to Georgia State University. This editorial does not necessarily reflect the perspective of Georgia State University or the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia.”