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Why Black People Still Can’t Wait

Updated: Jun 7

By Arva Rice, President and CEO New York Urban League

"Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever."

Martin Luther King, Letter from the Birmingham Jail

As we as a country and our beloved New York City work to recover from the impact of COVID-19, we have again been reminded of America’s original disease – racism. Institutionalized racism that lead to the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmadu Arbery and Breonna Taylor. Just like institutionalized racism lead to the deaths of Emmett Till, Sean Bell, and Amadou Diallo. Our country has a problem and we can only address it by working in connection with others to change laws, develop policy, and change attitudes that can lead to healing and greater levels of mutual respect.


What we are witnessing in cities across our nation is both an awakening and a cry for a new social order. Many of those in the streets are young. They are experiencing what my Mother felt with Emmett Till, and what I felt with Rodney King. The Young Professionals that volunteer over 15,000 of service to the New York Urban League felt betrayed by the acquittals of the officers charged with Eric Garner’s death. It is the collective anguish of a people who know that the justice system works differently for people with one color of skin than it does for another.

Decades of inequality have led us to today. There are those engaged in peaceful protest. Then there are those creating mayhem, inciting violence, and looting. No one should assume they are the same people. We refuse to be distracted by those engaged in criminal behavior from the original mistreatment that sparked peaceful protests around the country. Instead, we must focus on the way forward.

What We Need From Police


The repeated wrongful deaths of Blacks at the hands of the police have shown that the police should not be expected to police themselves. The New York Urban League has proposed specific recommendations for police reform and accountability.

  1. The New York Urban League calls for the immediate appointment of an independent prosecutor to investigate police misconduct.

  2. We ask the State Legislature to reform 50-A to allow public access to the records of officers’ excessive force complaints.

  3. We support the broader use of body cameras and dashboard cameras.

  4. Chokehold legislation must be enacted in this legislative session.

  5. Lastly, we demand officer training, hiring and background check verification standards must include social media platforms.

What We Need from White People


We need white people to speak to other white people, to acknowledge privilege in all of its forms, and become true co-conspirators in the fight to eradicate racism. Releasing a statement that Black Lives Matter is a first step. Below are a few others.

  1. In a few short weeks, New York City will welcome back its workforce to restaurants, retail stores, and office buildings. This creates an opportunity to analyze whether staffing mirrors the demographics of the city and create metrics to measure diversity.

  2. We encourage every employer to look at where their talents come from. Workplaces, where the majority of people are drawn from the same college or set of colleges, do not have the diversity of thought or opinions that lead to the most robust bottom line.

  3. The New York Urban League encourages every organization to look at their decision-makers. If those at the top do not reflect the diversity of New York, it is problematic.

  4. The New York Urban League supports mentorship. We ask white co-conspirators to foster cross-race relationships.

  5. Actively learn and listen because just because it has not been your life experience does not mean it is not true.

What We Need from All of US

Never has it been more important for us to work as a collective to push for change. Individual efforts are magnified when they come together.

  1. Join an organization – whether it is the Urban League, NAACP, or Color of Change. Unifying our voices will help amplify the message – www.nyul.org

  2. Register and Vote in upcoming federal, state and local elections - https://www.ny.gov/services/register-vote

  3. Take 10 minutes and complete the census so we can bring vitally needed resources to our community - https://2020census.gov/

  4. Make sure you know who your elected officials are and see how they are voting on 50-A and other police legislation this Spring. To advocate regarding these bills, complete the following steps: Enter your address on this website to determine who your Senator & Assembly member are: http://www.mygovnyc.org/

  5. Give of your time and give of your resources – mentor, volunteer, contribute to bail funds, food banks, anti-racist movements.

The deaths of George Floyd, Ahmadu Arbery, and Breonna Taylor with the loss of lives due to COVID-19 have brought international attention to how racism continues to take lives. We have been forced to look squarely at America’s original disease and this generation is demanding a cure. We cannot wait.

Arva Rice| President & CEO

New York Urban League, Inc.

204 West 136th Street | New York, NY 10030


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