Police accountability, climate colonialism, and moving forward - Sunday Suggestions & Connections
By Abaki Beck
Sunday Suggestions and Connections is a weekly feature pairing recent news events with related readings and ideas to take action.
This week, Anita Alvarez, Chicago’s former top prosecutor, was ousted this week by voters. She was prosecutor when Laquan McDonald, a black seventeen year old, was shot and killed by a police officer. She famously asked for a delay in charges until after the court released a video tape of the incident - 400 days later. Chicagans were disgusted at how long this took, leading to protests and cries to impeach Mayor Rahm Emanuel for not stepping up. At the time, Mayor Emanuel argued that the city would have to wait to file charges until after local and federal investigations took place. Kim Foxx, who beat Alvarez in part by citing her negligence in this case, has said that there are ways for the prosecutor's office to side step this to ensure civil rights and justice for victims of police violence. In addition to increased police accountability, Foxx’s platform also included a focus on diverting low-level drug offenders into treatment, not to jail.
Laquan McDonald’s case is of course just one example of police brutality across the country - particularly impacting young men of color. Below are some resources on how to combat police brutality and help activists who are doing this work:
Citizens Police Data Project is an online, Chicago based platform to inform citizens on law enforcement misconduct and increase police accountability
A Visual Guide to the Police Misconduct Complaint Process (Chicago specific) by Jean Cochrane
Police Union Contract Project focuses on police union accountability across the nation.
Support or get involved with a Black Lives Matter group in your area
Also this week, the United Nations has warned that over 36 million people face hunger in Africa due to drought, caused by new weather patterns. Due to climate change, weather patterns have been unusually extreme, with Febraury one of the hottest months on record - ever. Ethiopia will likely be one of the countries hardest hit. Hunger has wide reaching impacts. It is estimated that in Ethiopia, nearly 4 million children have stopped attending school due to the drought. This creates questions for communities across the world on how to deal with this crisis. Climate change impacts access to water, agriculture and food, religious ceremonies and medicines gathered from plants, among other things. This U.N. announcement is just one reminder of the incredibly powerful and urgent impact that climate change has on all people - particularly those that are already marginalized and vulnerable.
Many have connected the disparate impacts of climate change to colonialism. In the United States for example, the first climate change refugees are the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw of Mississippi, who were given a federal grant to relocate their tribe to higher grounds as the island they live on disappears underwater. Their chief has worked to get support from the U.S. government for relocation for the last thirteen years. The tribe fears that relocating as individuals - and not as a coherent community - will cause a deterioration in their tribal culture and belongingness. This fear is very real; this kind of removal (whether by the government or “natural” disasters) has happened to Native Americans before throughout United States history. This tribe will maintain ownership of the island even as they relocate for safety. This is their historical territory, and they island contains tribal burial grounds and sacred places.
Like this tribe and people in Ethiopia, marginalized communities throughout the world are often those hardest hit by climate change. Climate change is not just about renewable energy and recycling - it’s about empowering all communities to become sustainable and supported.
To learn more, here are some readings on colonialism and climate change:
And in the United States specifically:
Before we depart, here are a few more important stories to check out this week:
Thank you for reading, and have a happy and empowering Sunday!