People protest to signal that they are fed up with the status quo. But protest is rarely singularly focused. People are in the streets this summer over the murder of George Floyd, but the current racial reckoning in America goes far beyond lethal policing. People are in the streets because Black students are five times more likely than white students to attend highly segregated schools. Because Black unemployment is regularly twice the white unemployment rate. Because racist housing policies have locked Black families into unequal neighborhoods and out of the prospect of building wealth.
Meanwhile, the policy responses to the protests have thus far been singularly focused on police brutality. State leaders have already signed a string of changes into law. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed a bill restricting choke holds; New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed bills that would punish officers who kill someone after placing them in a choke hold with up to 15 years in prison, that would make police disciplinary records available to the public, and that would require officers to give medical or mental-health attention to people they have arrested.
In the 18 days after Floyd’s murder, 16 states introduced, amended, or passed various police-reform bills. But to be effective, efforts to combat systemic racism must stretch as far as the inequality itself does. That work is now beginning in city councils and statehouses across the country—largely in Democratic-leaning states—where lawmakers are being pushed to act on discriminatory policies.