By Stephanie Younger •

Edited and re-published on the ACLU of Virginia on July 24, 2018 • 

Virginia, we have a problem. We need to come to terms with our state’s history of the marginalization of the Black community. Virginia is where the first enslaved Africans were brought against their will. We live in Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy. A racist act of terrorism occurred last year in Charlottesville. Virginia pushes Black youth out of schools and incarcerates them at alarming rates. The people whose so-called job it is to “serve and protect” our communities are exploiting and abusing Black people. 

A Black male VCU graduate and high school biology teacher who was loved among his students was shot to death by a police officer in Richmond, Virginia. He was known to be “one the most caring and selfless people you’d ever meet.” Marcus-David Peters was “unarmed, clearly in distress, and in need of help,” in the words of his sister, Princess Blanding.

Today, nearly three weeks after an officer from the Richmond Police Department murdered him, protestors in Richmond demanded justice for Marcus-David Peters, marching from the VCU Seigel Center to the Richmond Police Department and chanting, “Who do you serve? Who do you protect?” and “Help, not death!”

People attempted to justify the murder of Marcus-David Peters by saying he was a threat because he charged at the officer who killed him. Victim blaming is deeply ingrained in anti-Black racism. Some people attempt to justify our inhumanity by saying “they didn’t comply” and downplaying the violence and racism Black people experience every day to a figment of our imagination. Instead of holding the police accountable for abusing Black people, we’re denounced and punished for acknowledging it, and when we protest it, we experience violence. 

What are the beginning steps to ending police brutality? First we, as a community, must come to terms with the fact that the existence of law enforcement alone is the source of America’s history of state sanctioned violence against the Black community. We must act abolition into existence and invest in what keeping each other safe looks like without police or prisons. People often choose not to acknowledge an issue that is so apparent, and it is our responsibility as Virginians to direct attention to and put anti-Black police violence to an end.

Stephanie Younger is a 15-year-old writer based in Central Virginia.