The past few days, our mailboxes have been overflowing with expressions of anger, frustration and concern over the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade by law enforcement, and the subsequent events which have highlighted systemic racism and its devastating effects upon communities of color. The Washington Defender Association (WDA) is united with all voices decrying racism in all its forms, and pledges our continuing unwavering support for societal and justice system reforms to address systemic racism and inequities.
WDA’s strategic goal statement speaks to the heart of this matter:
After decades of criminalizing race, poverty and immigration status, criminal justice reform is emerging as the civil rights movement of our time, a foundational necessity for racial and economic justice. The familiar narrative of criminalizing race and poverty has begun to shift as leaders at all levels of our civil society begin to speak out, engage in meaningful debate, and propose strategies for change.
Our vision statement highlights the world we are seeking:
WDA envisions a world where zealous, well-resourced, and supported public defenders work in partnership with their clients and their communities to achieve just results on individual cases and transform the justice system to value the humanity of our clients and their communities.
Communities are angry and frustrated by the continuing heart-breaking examples of police brutality against black people. Our country’s history of institutional racism, particularly anti-black racism and white supremacy, coupled with the lack of demonstrated changes in law enforcement attitudes, practices, behaviors, and tactics towards black people and other targeted communities has led us to this painful juncture. It is time for individuals holding political power to truly address the underlying causes of these inequities and for us collectively to forge a positive path supporting the Black Lives Matter coalition and other groups fighting racial injustice.
We call to all members of the justice system and others who are committed to justice and equity to acknowledge historic and pervasive systemic racism in the United States and to now stand together and renew our collective commitment to dismantling the obstacles to freedom and equality for all. We will continue to remember those who lost their lives in the struggle for civil rights as we stand with all members of the community impacted by racist violence committed by law enforcement and with those fighting for racial justice and societal reform.