Over the past few months, there has been a stream of reports of black people being killed by police in the US – the latest victims of a phenomenon that is tragically familiar.
Breonna Taylor, a decorated EMT, was shot to death as she slept when plainclothes detectives carried out a “no-knock raid” on her home in the early hours of the morning. There were no charges for the officers responsible, but her boyfriend, who had a legal firearm and shot at them in self-defence, was charged with attempted murder of a police officer and first-degree assault.
Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed while out jogging. One of his killers was a former police officer and investigator for the District Attorney’s office. The shooters were not arrested or charged until a video of them chasing, confronting, and shooting Arbery as he tried to get away began circulating in the media.
George Floyd died when Derek Chauvin, a police officer, knelt on his neck for nine minutes. As Floyd, handcuffed on the ground, pleaded that he could not breathe, two other officer looked on; a third prevented bystanders from intervening.
The sheer cruelty and senselessness of these killings, and all those that have happened before – how there is no accountability in their aftermath, no consequences for the perpetrators, no real effort to prevent them from happening again – has sparked mass protests across the US and internationally.
The drive to witness to the value of the lives violently taken, and demand that the lives of the living be respected and protected, is a powerful one. Anyone who has felt moved to witness to the value of unborn lives must appreciate and share it.
Many pro-life advocates have also been speaking out on the issue of police killings.
Protecting black lives is a pro-life issue.
In a recent interview, Louisiana state senator Katrina Jackson, a pro-life Democrat, says pro-lifers cannot remain silent in the face of injustice. She noted that racism, and the deaths of young black men, have been
plaguing our nation for years…it has to stop, because it goes directly against the pro-life stance that every life has value.
The pro-life American Solidarity Party’s presidential candidate, Brian Carroll, lent his support to the NAACP and Black Lives Matter’s calls for reforms in the criminal justice system, reflecting:
I was a sophomore in a white Los Angeles high school, in 1966, during the Watts Riots. I think my classmates and I pretty much agreed that racial disparity and injustice was a problem that our generation would need to solve…Obviously, we have thus far failed to do so. We don’t have a lot of time left.
Consistent Life Network, an umbrella group of organizations that uphold a consistent life ethic, also strongly supports the protests (which many of their member organisations and board members have attended). They stated:
…we stand with peaceful protests against racist violence, and note that most protesters generally appear to have behaved nonviolently. We share the concern expressed by a number of peaceful protesters that the smaller numbers committing violence and vandalism distract the public and responsible officials from the purpose of the protests and result in peaceful protesters suffering from the actions of authorities responding to such acts.
We refuse to let concerns about rioting, violence, and vandalism distract us from the central problem that provoked people into taking to the streets in protest: the continuing role of racism in the United States and the lethal consequences this has for people of color.
…The life and dignity of each person must be defended, especially for those on the margins whose lives are not valued. Because of the pervasive structural racism in the US, this includes too many people of color. This must change.
(Also, check out her blog on the Ahmaud Arbery case.)
Here are some more responses from pro-life organisations & individuals to the killing of George Floyd.
What can I do?
- 13th, the acclaimed documentary by Ava DuVernay. It examines how the amendment to the US Constitution which outlawed slavery and involuntary servitude kept an exception for those convicted of a crime, and how this has entrenched patterns of inequality and racism in the criminal justice system until today. (Watch it for free here.)
- Shareef Cousins’s story: wrongly convicted and sentenced to death at just 16 years old. He is the 77th person in the US to be found innocent and exonerated from death row.
- “Voices on Police Brutality in the Aftermath of the Murder of George Floyd” (Consistent Life Blog)
- On the police shooting of Antwon Rose, an unarmed 17-year-old, in 2018: Herb Geraghty, “Verdict Reached in Michael Rosfeld Case” (Life Matters Journal, 7:2, April 2019)
- On the barriers to justice faced by victims of intimate partner violence from police officers: “An Interview with a Victim of Police Violence: “The Blue Code of Silence” Creates Systemic Injustice” (Rehumanize Blog)
Abide is a maternal services centre in South Dallas, Texas – one of the areas with the worst maternal health outcomes for black and Latina women in the US. It is run by women of colour, for women of colour, with a strong commitment to anti-racism and redemptive justice. You can donate to support their work here.
Find and listen to black pro-life advocates
There are at least two good reasons to seek out the voices of black members of the pro-life community at this time.
Firstly, we can learn the most from the perspectives of those who are directly affected by this violence and structural racism. The best and most effective activism comes from a full, nuanced understanding of the problem.
Secondly, the pro-life movement is not magically immune from patterns of discrimination and exclusion which exist in every part of society. This means we must make an effort not just to be “not racist”, but to be actively anti-racist – to consciously challenge the stereotypes and prejudices that would limit some people’s full and equal participation. This isn’t an optional extra for pro-lifers, it’s vital: our whole movement is about fighting for the equal protection and dignity of every human!
A small way to do this is to make sure your social media feeds are giving you lots of different and diverse points of view from within the pro-life movement. Right now is a better time than ever to follow/share black pro-life advocates. Here are a few to start with: