This New Year Is a Critical Moment in the History of Our Movement

Jan 1, 2023

This is the first day of 2023, after a year that has tested our movement like nothing in the last half century. We have a tradition to ring in the new year with a review of what we accomplished in 2022

I'm primarily speaking of the work of the National Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression and its Chicago branch, but also acknowledging where the struggle for Black liberation is at in our country at this moment.

The greatest challenge is overcoming the hundreds of years of national oppression imposed upon us by this government, the primary characteristic of which is economic oppression rationalized by racism and white supremacy.

Black people are still at the bottom of the lot economically, politically and socially in whatever category you want to address: unemployment, education, housing and homelessness, or health care. In particular, there was no special attention given to the ravages caused by COVID-19. Black people died at almost twice the rate of whites, and in the first year, at higher rates.

Incarceration rates are also among the most shocking statistics: Black people are less than 15% of the population, but state prisons have five times as many Black prisoners as whites, who are almost 60% of the population. The Indigenous have similar rates of imprisonment, while Chicanos and other Latinos have rates more than double whites.

It’s been over two years and seven months since the massive rebellion sparked by the callous, cold-blooded murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. 25 million protested and rebelled in all fifty states, as well as many major cities throughout the world. There is no doubt in my mind that the 2020 Black led rebellion was the leading cause of the political realignment that led to the defeat of Donald Trump and the Democrats winning a majority of the seats in the House and breaking even in the Senate.

The Black liberation movement has continued a new upsurge in the fight for democracy. We see that in Georgia with what happened in the last elections, Black people defeating racist voter suppression efforts.

What we have in Chicago is a situation that is historically unprecedented. It's a democratic upsurge of a new type. Our battle for community control of the police has reached a level that has not happened before. This came about in July of 2021 when our movement was able to get the ordinance Empowering Communities for Public Safety passed. With its passage, we entered a new stage in the struggle for Black liberation as well.

This is because of the repressive role the police have played in our communities since the 60s: the murder of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Fred Hampton and so many others. Police repression didn’t subside after the 1960s: it has heightened like it never has before.

The level of police repression that exists in our communities denies organizing space to those struggles that we need to be engaged in that will better our communities, democratic demands again about housing, education, unemployment and so on.

Anthony Driver, president of the new Interim Commission on Public Safety and Accountability said it like this when ECPS was passed: “Our movement took Chicago from the city where police accountability was the worst, to now having established the best system in the country.”

What does this mean for our movement in 2023? The Police District Council elections are going to be the bellwether of where the struggle for the democratic rights of the people versus police tyranny are headed in this city and in this nation.

Our task at the beginning of this year is to mobilize our people, especially the registered voters, to come all out on February 28 and to cast a protest vote. We must no longer allow the level of police repression that denies us justice and our humanity.

Literally, we are looking at what Malcolm X called “The ballot or the bullet.” Either we win at the ballot box, or the police will continue to kill us with bullets.

If we don't win at the ballot box, we will lose with the bullet coming from the guns of the police and the internal violence that goes on in our communities because of the economics of racism.

I know people are going to say, what about Black-on-Black crime? Well, first of all, Black-on-Black crime is a racist characterization.

Black on Black crime is no more horrid and disgusting than white on white crime or any other kind of crime.

The very fact that you're going to racialize it shows where the police are coming from. They're criminalizing our communities.

The democratic essence of the question is that we can't do anything with regard to any kind of crimes if we're not in control, if the police are the ones who are dictating the policies. We know the history of how the police have responded to crime in our community for decades: racial profiling, torture, wrongful imprisonment, and mass incarceration.

As a result, 70% of the homicides committed in the Black community are unsolved. The people don’t trust the police and never have. This is not about rebuilding trust. This is about building power, having the power to say who polices our communities and how our communities are policed.

This message needs to go out to the whole country: if the police continue out of control, it will bring about a police state. We are dedicated to stopping that.

Frank Chapman
Executive Director
National Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression