(Sent on June 8th, 2020.)
Black lives matter.
The horrific murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and countless other Black people have shown once again how deeply rooted racism is in the United States. For centuries, our institutions have cast Black Americans as second-class citizens who are not afforded the same rights and opportunities as their fellow citizens. It's a plague that not only afflicts the criminal justice system, but all areas of society. We hope the inspiring protests we've seen across the country will finally force our elected leaders to take the necessary steps to end police brutality and begin to reverse the pernicious effects of systemic racism.
We’re glad to see that many of our representatives have already begun the work. Cambridge City Council has started to review the Cambridge Police Department's use of force policies. This Thursday at 6 p.m., Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, City Manager Louis DePasquale and Police Commissioner Branville Bard will host a town hall to discuss police reform in our community. On June 15, the City Council will discuss the police budget. In the State House, the Black & Latino Caucus issued a ten-point plan to address inequities. At the federal level, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley put forth a resolution to denounce police brutality, racial profiling, and excessive force. She is also the co-sponsor of a bill to end qualified immunity.
Local politics often focus on what physical structures should be built—apartments, bike lanes, offices, substations, dispensaries, parks—and where they should go. As supporters of ABC, you know that exclusionary zoning was invented as a tool of racial oppression, and continues to function as one to this day. The failure to build housing across the city that is affordable for everyone can be directly traced to these laws. It speaks to why these local issues are so important.
But taking racism seriously requires grappling with much more than the built environment. The construction of affordable housing does not advance justice if it is racially segregated, as Washington Elms & Newtowne Court were when they were built. Safe streets for bicyclists and pedestrians are not safe for all if they are patrolled by police officers who endanger the lives of Black people. And if we don’t enact adequate protections for tenants, no amount of transit-oriented development will prevent the displacement of communities of color.
We need to employ a wide array of tools, policies, practices, and investments to support change. While we know it is just part of much needed transformation, we are proud to share news that the Affordable Housing Overlay — a zoning change to make it easier to create new affordable housing citywide — will be reintroduced at tonight's City Council meeting. As it works its way through the Council process, we hope you will join us in continuing to advocate for this one small but meaningful pro-equity measure.
We will continue to advocate for other reforms to bring housing justice to our city, and support the work of those who are fighting on other, critical fronts. It is as important as ever to work hard at the local level to achieve change, and we look forward to having your continued support in this fight. Lastly, here are some things we’re reading about the history of racism in our cities, and why we must push hard for justice:
— ABC Leadership