Whitmer And The Fight for Racial Justice
Since the murder of George Floyd on May 25th, a social and racial uprising has been taking place nationwide. In Michigan, things have proved to be no different as images of both peaceful, and impassioned demonstrations have spread across the internet. Last month, Governor Whitmer marched and kneeled alongside demonstrators during a civil rights march through Detroit and Highland Park. During this demonstration, Governor Whitmer encouraged participants to stay engaged in the fight “to move forward” and to use elections as a way to shift power.
In addition to weeks of demonstrations and protests, Governor Whitmer has also been fielding various questions about policing, especially as it pertains to communities of color in Michigan. In a June 9th interview, Governor Whitmer expressed support for the “spirit” of calls to defund police, stating that she felt budgets should be focused on things like education, health care, and transportation. She and her press secretary later clarified the statement, asserting that Governor Whitmer does not believe the police should be defunded, but rather believes in focusing on “greater investment in people communities.” While the backtracking of the statement in some ways feels more political than sincerely clarifying, Governor Whitmer’s suggested commitment to investing more resources into Black communities is still a valuable and necessary one.
Governor Whitmer has also talked about being open to taking away certain protections that allow police officers to remain unaccountable for their often harmful behavior. Namely, Whitmer has expressed being open to the idea of ending qualified immunity (the policy of police officers not being held personally liable for anything that happens in the line of duty, including death), as well as unsealing police records. While reforms such as these are not the same as calls for defunding or abolitionist movements, they could still act as important first steps in forcing police to be publicly responsible for their actions, making it easier for the people to hold officers accountable for all wrongdoing.
In talking about the death of George Floyd and COVID-19, Gretchen Whitmer stated last month that “both reveal an infection we have yet to overcome.” The unnamed infection she speaks about is antiBlackness and white supremacy–issues that plague all of the US and that are particularly pertinent to many of the people Whitmer governs.
As the leader of a state where the most populated city by a long shot is almost 80% Black, Governor Whitmer has a major responsibility to address the questions, comments, and concerns of the Black community. Rather than shying away from this responsibility, it seems that Governor Whitmer has taken on the task directly. During the various national crises of the several months, Governor Whitmer has made several verbal and actualized commitments to the Black community that could ultimately paint her as a political figure on the side of the people.