Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes Pushes For Police Reform
After the Kenosha police shooting of Jacob Blake, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has just declared a State of Emergency on Tuesday, August 25. The incident caused a melee of local people who are incensed at the use of deadly force by yet another police division against a seemingly unarmed Black man. They have caused damage to public buildings and property, not to be confused with the hundreds of protesters across the nation who are still trying to get the message across that Black lives matter at all times and in all circumstance.
The governor has thus reacted by increasing the presence of the National Guard to ensure protesters remain peaceful and so “individuals can exercise their right safely, protect state buildings and critical infrastructure, and support first responders and fire fighters.”
With that said, Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes, who is African American, has distinctly personal feelings about the shooting of Blake even as local and state officials promise a full investigation in the matter. Here he tells BET.com why he believes incidents like this keep happening and solutions to make it stop.
Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times in front of his children. This wasn’t an accident. The officer’s deadly actions attempted to take a person’s life in broad daylight. Like many of you, the video is burned into my mind like all the past videos just like it.
The irony is not lost on me that as Jacob Blake was trying to deescalate a fight in his community, the responding officer didn’t feel the need to do the same—and now we all know Jacob Blake’s name.
As we’ve said before, this violence is all too familiar to us, especially for those of us who are on the receiving end—whose communities are overpoliced, whose children learn early on that police officers aren’t always serving and protecting them as they should.
This didn’t start or end with George Floyd, and I would hate to see this not end with Jacob Blake—that’s why we need to respond. We know we cannot remedy the white supremacy and systemic racism that are built into all of our systems in just a few years or with any package of legislation. But that doesn’t mean we don’t act. That doesn’t mean we stand still.
We have to do everything in our power to, first, call out the systemic violence that happens every day in this state and in this country, and then do the work to rebuild those systems that perpetuate it—not just when a Black man is murdered in front of his children, but when schools that serve the same children are systemically underfunded, or when we see Black women have to fight to be heard in our health care system, or when Black communities are expected to live in more polluted environments.
These, too, are forms of systemic violence. And the social and economic consequences of these deep-seated inequities reach every community in our state. That’s why leaders at every level of government have an obligation to hear the demands for justice of those marching in the streets—to see their pain, anger, and frustration as a long overdue call to action.
In June, Governor Evers and I called on the legislature to bring some level of accountability and transparency to our law enforcement. We knew this package of legislation would only be a first step toward justice but that doing nothing was not an option. Unfortunately, our legislative leaders have done nothing, and this is what we, as Wisconsinites, have come to expect from them every time we are in a state of crisis.
Well, the people of our state are done waiting for their leaders to show up—and so are we. That’s why on Monday, Governor Evers announced a Special Session of the Legislature to take up this package of legislation and begin the long but important path toward ensuring our state and our country start to live up to our promises of equity and justice.”
I sincerely hope, for the people all across Wisconsin, that we see some leadership from our legislature in the coming days.
To everyone that is as tired as I am, know that I stand with you in the fight for a better world—a world where Black lives actually matter. A world with decency, with true justice, equity, and opportunity for all Black people. Remember that that better world is always worth fighting for. Please take care of yourselves, please stay safe, and join me in praying for Jacob Blake and his family.
Mandela Barnes serves as Wisconsin’s 45th Lieutenant Governor. He is the first African-American to serve as a Lieutenant Governor in Wisconsin, and the second African-American to ever hold statewide office in the state.
Photo by Kerem Yucel / AFP) (Photo by KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images