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As the calls for Black lives to matter continue to ring, so too does the list of names preceded by a hashtag of those killed continue to grow. It is a compounding of grief. That even while people are protesting police brutality across the country and globe, it continues to be a threat to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in our country. We all carry the impact of racialized trauma in our bodies. While in the midst of a global pandemic, we have once again been forced to face straight on the reality that there is another public health crisis that has existed for far too long, which is racism in our society. With 500 years of history in New Mexico, our narrative and experience as Black people must not be erased. We are hurting in this moment. We are grieving. We are moved to action.

What we are seeing today is not new and neither are the demands. What we are seeing is movement building with great clarity on what it is our communities need. Community-led solutions to safety, such as mental health resources, education, food security, affordable housing, and public health approaches to violence prevention. In a public health crisis, we don't wait for the worst thing to happen. Instead, we move upstream to address the issue at the root, to prevent the worst from happening. Over the past three months, we have all collectively practiced this approach in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and to protect our neighbors. Now is the time to collectively practice moving upstream to address systemic racism in our society to protect our neighbors. There is no other way for us to address systemic racism in our society without talking about race.

What is our commitment to anti-racism? In our homes, in our schools, in our communities of faith, in our police departments, in our local and state government? This is an opportunity to take account and look deeply at policies and practices affected by institutional racism.

As Ibram X. Kendi states, "there is no neutrality in addressing racism and bigotry. The opposite of racist isn't not racist. It is anti-racist. We must also be honest about how policies in every institution, in every community are producing or sustaining either racial inequity or equity."

We need all leaders at every level, local, state, and federal, to take a bold stand in addressing racial injustice and inequity. It has always been through the persistent will and demands of the people and committed and bold leadership that has brought about justice in our society.

The New Mexico Civil Rights Act creates a legal remedy for New Mexicans to bring claims for damages in state court against police officers and other public officials who violate the rights guaranteed to them under the New Mexico Constitution. The bill specifically prohibits the use of "qualified immunity," a federal legal doctrine that makes it nearly impossible for individuals to sue public officials by requiring proof that they violated "clearly established law." Qualified immunity has been a major factor in ensuring institutional racism in our criminal justice system. Championing the New Mexico Civil Rights Act during the upcoming special legislative session goes beyond a symbolic gesture for our state leadership. We have a historic opportunity to create a state law that will provide New Mexicans with a legal remedy for seeking justice and that will hold those public officials who abuse their power accountable.

Angela Davis recently shared in an interview with The Guardian, "After many moments of dramatic awareness and possibilities of change, the kinds of reforms instituted in the aftermath have prevented the potential from being realized."

Let us not miss this moment of realizing our full potential for New Mexico.

Alexandria Taylor is the deputy director at the New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs. She has keynoted and trained statewide and nationally on anti-oppression and institutional bias in social services and has agreed to serve on the governor's new Council for Racial Justice. Born and raised in New Mexico, a major portion of Taylor's existence is spent contemplating and living out radically mothering her son David. 

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