The Children’s Defense Fund is praying for the recovery of Jacob Blake, who was shot seven times in the back by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Our heart breaks for the children and family of Jacob Blake and the community of Kenosha.
We are disgusted and devastated by the episodes of violence that continue to terrorize and traumatize Black children and families in communities across this country. These shootings, and this use of excessive force and immediate escalation when engaging with the Black community, are racist and underline why those of us who care for children must prioritize police reform and confront the systemic racism that plagues us all.
The disregard not only for Mr. Blake’s life but also for his children speaks to the centuries of trauma and pain inflicted on Black children and families in this country. From the moment Black children are brought into this world, their lives are subject to constant violence and conflict, and we must change that. This dysfunctional system that does not value Black lives is linked to the same system that created policing to protect and safeguard property and to preserve the system we know as slavery.
To be clear, this is not a case of bad apples. It’s not a one-off incident. This is racism embedded in the history of this nation. It is embedded in the policies or the lack thereof that simply don’t protect Black Americans. When we must question whether those police who are meant to protect us all really do protect Black lives, our policing procedures and systems must be changed.
Stories and experiences like these remind all Americans how Black Americans are terrorized in this country every day and of the violence that our youngest children are forced to witness. Tarika Wilson’s one-year-old son was in her arms when she was shot and killed by police. Philando Castile’s girlfriend and four-year-old daughter were in the car with him when he was shot and killed by police. Jacob Blake’s three-year-old, five-year-old, and eight-year-old sons were in the car when police shot him. The chronic exposure to violence takes an enormous toll on these children and puts them at risk of significant disruptions in their mental, emotional, and physical development.
We stand in solidarity with the thousands of nonviolent, persistent, and resilient protesters demanding change. All violence with a gun must be considered gun violence, whether it be committed by vigilantes or those in uniform. Let us show the nation and, most importantly, our children that real safety from violence means the right to affordable housing, nutritious food, invested schools, good-paying jobs, and health care. We will continue to demand accountability and systemic change on behalf of Black children and families across this country. We urge elected officials at all levels of government to enact policies that push further and to seek radical change to dismantle the systems that create tragedies like these.