On Thursday, July 9th, our police reform team invited Ms. Pamela Price, a prominent Bay Area civil rights attorney, to speak to us about her experiences and insight into the justice system in our area. Here is a preview of our conversation, the link to which is located below.
After some introductions, Ms. Price began with the story of how her activism was jump-started when she was 12 years old. “It was like a curtain tearing in half over my life,” she explained, recalling the shock of the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. Around this time, Ms. Price had seen older students and adults face arrest, violence, and death for participating and organizing in protests. The memory of the sacrifices of older leaders pushed Ms. Price to engage in advocacy of her own.
Her activism led her to resistance from the various institutions in her life, as her school administrators tried to pull her into another educational path (so that she would be isolated from some of the other students). Such institutional backlash culminated when she had to spend time in the juvenile justice system. Despite such challenges. Ms. Price later applied and was accepted to Yale University, where she studied political science.
“It was a very very challenging and very dangerous time…and I just survived, literally by the grace of God,” she recalled.
As Ms. Price began to practice law as a community defender in San Francisco, she came face to face with the realities of the disturbing problems in our justice system, many of which continue to plague our communities today. In particular, she emphasized that, while the conduct and transparency of police officers is a huge problem in itself, prosecutors, probation officers, and our focus on prisons over schools/services all contribute in creating a justice system that traps many people of color in vicious cycles of poverty and crime, with little hope for educational attainment and economic opportunity.
At one poignant moment, our main speaker, Krishna asked whether the increase in awareness of systemic racism has made the situation any better in recent decades.
“I have to say things are worse,” she responded. While overt segregation has been dismantled, issues like the racial wealth gap have only exacerbated as the recent decades saw federal, state, and local resources being stripped from schools and poured into bigger prisons and armed police. In some of the schools in her area, she explained, there were bathrooms whose faucets and toilets were all completely broken while the state continues to maintain our large, expensive prisons that seem more effective in perpetuating crime than discouraging it.
Still, throughout the hour-long talk, she maintained her deep sense of hope and joy. After all, she pointed out, it’s our generation’s time to keep the politicians on their toes, and we can do better.
We would like to thank Ms. Price for talking with us, and encourage readers to listen to our Q&A session. Click here to watch the video.