Statement by the GLSEN 2019-20 National Student Council and Student Advocate of the Year

Condemning Police Brutality, Calling for Greater Support for Black Lives


We, the 2019-2020 GLSEN National Student Council and 2019 Student Advocate of the Year, issue this statement in response to the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and countless other Black people. We call upon organizations to condemn not only white supremacy and racist violence, but specifically the systemic brutality of the police state.

We call upon organizations, institutions, and corporations divest from financial ties with police and invest in mutual aid groups. Support for a police system that constantly murders and brutalizes Black people is incongruous with a dedication to social justice. Additionally, organizations must use their platforms to call out anti-Black violence every time it happens. It is only when there is a general understanding of the severity of the impact of white supremacy that we are able to dismantle the systems that perpetuate structural violence.

We call on organizations and institutions to address and correct anti-Blackness within their environments. It is necessary to establish policies and structures that ensure that anti-Black violence can be addressed without causing further harm to Black people. It is also essential that organizations hire Black people to serve in high-level leadership positions and that they pledge to pay Black people for the physical and emotional labor that is constantly required from them.

The idea that individuals do not hold a responsibility to effect change within the systems they inhabit is dangerous. Individuals must consistently work to disavow violent cultures of silence and uplift anti-racism efforts. Call out anti-Blackness among your friends, family members, and co-workers. Embrace the discomfort and conflict that is inevitable when advocating for change.

We call upon those with platforms to not only speak out in the name of anti-racism but to fully commit to unlearning and undoing the effects of centuries of white supremacy and anti-Blackness. This means taking significant action: march with us in the streets, post unapologetically and publicly, redistribute your wealth, use your privilege to not only document the police, but physically shield Black people from more violence and death.

This is not a reminder that anti-Blackness exists. This is not a reminder that the police are a threat to Black people. We know these things to be true because we are not allowed to forget. Black youth cannot exist in their homes, take up public space, or even peacefully mourn those we’ve lost without fear of being met with violence at the hands of police. The threat of police violence has forced Black youth to plan for their own deaths.

There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives (Audre Lorde, 1982). We care about Black people because they are Black and being killed. We maintain our intersectional perspective while understanding that police violence faced by LGBTQ+ people is NOT the same as that faced by Black people. We maintain that our understanding of riots in the LGBTQ+ movement should not be our only basis of understanding for demonstrations being organized by Black leaders.

George Floyd’s killer did not demonstrate “indifference.” The officer made the vicious and deliberate choice to ignore Floyd’s cries of “I can’t breathe.” With Floyd calling out to onlookers, “They gon kill me man.” He knew he was next.

The lynching of Ahmaud Arbery was not a result of vigilante justice: it was murder.

Breonna Taylor was killed by police in her own bed in a manner so reckless that her boyfriend thought their home was being broken into.

Tony McDade was shot and killed by police with witnesses stating that officers did not hesitate to open fire on him without warning.

Silence is violence. Complicity is violence. Inaction is violence. All three are choices.

We issue this statement as an expression of our commitment to pursuing justice for Black people. Sympathy is not enough; to dismantle centuries of systemic oppression requires direct action. We call on organizations and non-Black individuals to use their platforms and resources to learn anti-racism and undo the effects of white supremacist state violence. #BlackLivesMatter