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Something revolutionary has just happened in California.
The California state legislature passed the Racial Justice Act, a landmark bill introduced by assembly member Ash Kalra that takes drastic steps towards ending racial inequities within the criminal justice system.
Across the country, it is a fact that Black people receive longer prison sentences than white people for the same crime. For decades, few people have actually cared. In America, incarcerated people are often seen as throwaways, to be locked up and forgotten about. Since we have more incarcerated people than any nation in the history of the world, there are millions of people whose rights are being denied and forgotten about.
The Racial Justice Act makes disproportionate sentencing illegal, meaning prosecutors will either have to give white people longer sentences, or drastically reduce the length of sentences Black people recieve.
Of course, this should have already been the case. According to the United States Sentencing Commission, Black people receive sentences on average 19.1 percent longer than white people. That disparity is sickening and we must fight for it’s end in every single state across the country.
As support for the Black Lives Matter movement has grown exponentially over the past months, so has the recognition of racism within the criminal justice system. This system was meant to oppress Black and Brown people while ensuring white people receive the benefits of that oppression. It will not take the passing of a single law or policy to change it, but thousands to overhaul the entire system and build something new.
I am highlighting the Racial Justice Act because I really want us all to recognize the power of policy. This bill and others like it are shining examples of the tangible changes that must result from our protests and symbolic efforts. We are no longer accepting apologies and promises from politicians. We need policy changes in our cities, states and nationwide. Those are our demands now.
It’s going to take time and a hell of a lot of effort, but in the words of Frederick Douglas: “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”
On today’s episode of The Breakdown, Shaun unpacks and explains the significance of this California bill and what we can all do to ensure ones like it are passed in our states.