To Friends, Supporters, Partners, and Survivors: Black Lives Matter

June 10, 2020

The Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (ANDVSA) is heartbroken and sickened by murders that are the latest expressions of state sanctioned violence against People of Color – specifically Black people.  We grieve because we know that these acts of violence further perpetuate deeply entrenched inequities and release relentless waves of suffering.  We hear calls for action – pleas from mothers, fathers, and loving family members.  We see images of young Black children holding handmade signs asking, “Am I Next?”

This is not normal. Yet it is normal for many Black people in this country because of foundational structures built on racist beliefs that the value of an individual can be determined by the color of their skin.  We know this is a lie. We know that these types of belief systems harm people of color, and that it does so because it is systemic and institutionalized. We know that our work to end violence insists that we name and expose these lies, then work in respectful and redefined partnerships to create the types of worlds we envision together.

The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and Breonna Taylor in Louisville remind us again that racism continuously inflicts deep pain and trauma among Black people, Indigenous people, and communities of color. Let us not forget, also, the lives of Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Alberta Spruill, Rekia Boyd, Tamir Rice, and the congregants of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.  We say their names and reflect in silence to remember and honor their lives. While quiet reflection offers momentary and much needed solace, it does little to stem the growing rage of how systemic racism continues to exclude, disregard, and harm Black lives, Brown lives, and Indigenous lives.  The lens of systemic racism amplifies what statistics show to be true in Alaska.

Alaska Native women and girls experience violence at unprecedented rates and Alaska Native peoples continue to be disproportionately represented in our state’s jails and prisons. Racialized structures ensure black and brown bodies are dying at disproportionate rates in the COVID pandemic. We also recognize how unemployment, homelessness, substance use, trauma, and health disparities are tearing disproportionately through communities of color.

It is not enough to speak of these disparities without saying clearly that every person who benefits from the racial hierarchy in this country must take personal responsibility on how they benefit from this continued unjust system.  We must critically ask ourselves how can it be that an unarmed Black man is murdered slowly over eight minutes by a police officer in broad daylight, in the middle of a busy street, and no one stopped it?  What kind of world do we live in where that can occur?  Who benefits from living in this kind of world? We cannot shirk our responsibilities to hold more conversations on how personal privilege – white privilege specifically – upholds this type of world.

ANDVSA has worked tirelessly to create and sustain lifesaving and survivor-centered services to victims of domestic and sexual violence for over forty years.  We acknowledge, however, that we have not been responsive to all victims and survivors. We sadly affirm that this has been harmful to survivors, their families and communities. We know that geographical location determines how services are accessed, the relevance of those services, and ways that our law enforcement and justice systems respond. We know that there is not equitable access for all victims and survivors.

ANDVSA joins individuals and organizations in our state and across this country and demand more accountability for state-sanctioned violence, and a resolute end to injustices built on practices and policies that are supported through and by institutionalized racism.  We are strengthened in the belief that our collective actions create the world we envision.

We have not always been a strong ally or partner with Black organizations or movements in this state. We are working to change that.