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Kate Doyle Griffiths

On Compromise

Delivered at Crown Heights Industry Workers' March, Brooklyn, June 11, 2020

July 2, 2020

I’ve been working as a service worker for 10 years. After that, I was organizing here in New York for housing justice, and racial justice. Against segregation, in what is still one of the most segregated cities in this country.

So I was working with a non-profit, I was working with electeds, I was working with everyone to fight for policies that would make us less segregated, but, that wasn’t working. It’s not working, because they’re not listening to us. They don’t take us seriously, and they expect us to compromise.

So right now with this movement, we are out here in these streets right now and our energy has been waning, because elected officials, non-profits, because thought leaders, people calling themselves political leaders, are out here telling us to compromise. Right now, there are so many people and we’re out here saying, “Defund the police!” And there are so many people out here, elected officials, so-called “thought leaders,” getting up and saying, “They don’t really mean that. They don’t really mean defund the police. They mean just move some money around. They mean, take a little from the police and put it into schools, put it into housing…” And we want that, but, we mean what we’re saying.

When we say, “Defund the police,” we mean, defund the police! So if y’all will give me just a minute, I want to talk about something… I want to talk about a little bit, a little bit of a history lesson, so bear with me for a little bit.  So, after the Civil War when slaves finally got the right they so deserved, to vote — this is not a story about voting, I’m not saying that voting is the answer, so, bear with me, just hold on — This is a story about compromise. So when slaves got their right to vote, we fucking went out and voted. At that time, people voted and elected Black leaders at every level of fucking government.

this is not a story about voting,.. This is a story about compromise.

 Over 1,500 Black leaders were elected in the twelve years after slaves got the right to vote. This was fucking scary for white folks. So what did they do? They held up the presidential election, and they asked for a compromise.

That compromise was, “Okay, Republicans, Republicans of the party of Lincoln, you all can have a Republican president, for the sake of the economy, for the sake of ‘national unity,’ for the sake of peace…” (I don’t know if those things sound familiar right now)  And so the compromise was, “You can have your Republican president, but let us do what we want with the Blacks in the South.”

And so, they did. The compromise was made. And what did they do? They fucking killed us.

They killed us. They harassed us. They raped us. They burned our homes, they burned crosses, they fucking tortured us and terrorized us. And so when I say, this story is not about voting, it’s not about the great things did when people voted, this story is about what happens when we compromise.

When we compromise… So I will tell you what happens when we compromise. When we compromise, Black people die.

So right now when we’re being asked to calm down, take a step back, saying we don’t really want abolition, we don’t really want to get rid of the police… We don’t want to compromise. That’s what we really don’t want. We are out here, we are in these streets because we do want to defund the police, we are demanding full abolition, we are demanding… we are demanding that we re-weave the fabric of this country and we imagine and we build a future where everybody has housing, where everybody has healthcare, where everybody has education, where we have no fucking cops on our streets and our people are not in prisons because prisons don’t exist.

They’re offering us reforms that will reduce how many people, how many Black people are killed by police, and I will tell you how many Black people I want to be killed by police: fucking zero!

And the only way that the cops will kill zero Black people a year, is if there are no cops. So I just want to finish, and I just want to say, like, a little bit of a chant if y’all can do it with me, because I want them to understand when we say “defund police” we are not confused, and what we are demanding is for them to: Disarm! Defund! Abolish the Police! Disarm! Defund! Abolish the Police! Disarm! Defund! Abolish the Police!

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