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'This Can't Go On': John Legend Backs Bill Against Racial Profiling

John Legend has penned a note to Californians urging them to support the Racial and Identity Profiling Act which sets out to update California's profiling law.
Image: John Legend
In this May 13, 2015 file photo, John Legend arrives for the opening ceremony and the screening of the film "La Tete Haute" (Standing Tall), at the 68th international film festival, Cannes, southern France. Legend is bringing his talents to a TV drama about Southern slaves fighting for freedom. WGN America said Wednesday, July 29, 2015, that Legend and his production company will be in charge of the score and soundtrack for "Underground."Arthur Mola / AP

Grammy-winning artist John Legend has penned a note to Californians urging them to support the Racial and Identity Profiling Act (AB 953) which sets out to update California's profiling law, improve public safety, protect the rights of all Californians, and advance community relations.

"As a black man, racial profiling is something I am far too familiar with," he wrote in an email to Courage Campaign members. Legend also calls out his home state of California as having "one of the weakest racial and identity profiling laws in the country."

Legend, who was celebrated for the Academy Award winning song, "Glory," in Ava Duvernay's film "Selma", recently joined the Courage Campaign which “fights for a more progressive California and country." The online community has more than 1 million members.

His frustration and public policy support come at the height of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement:

“As a nation, we are at a crossroads. Since the police killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Ezell Ford, and more, the Movement for Black Lives has captivated the world and shined a bright light on the desperate need for systemic changes to policing nationwide. And while many of us are talking about the problem and taking steps to address it, it seems that every day, we hear another horror story of a person of color being stopped, assaulted, or killed by the hands of law enforcement. Each story makes my heart hurt. This can’t go on."

Legend cites these startling statistics on racial profiling: Blacks are stopped twice as often as their peers, and Black and Latinos are searched at three and two times the rate of Whites, respectively.

Legend goes on to urge Californians to sign a petition to fix the bill and he highlights five other bills that he says will "dramatically improve the health and well-being of children, mothers, fathers, and siblings who are currently incarcerated," including:

  • SB 124 – a bill that would that would end solitary confinement for children;
  • SB 261 – a bill that would make certain individuals – who were under the age of 23 when they committed the crime – eligible for a youth offender parole hearing after serving a lengthy prison sentence;
  • SB 219 – a bill that would codify and expand access to the existing Alternative Custody Program so that women can retain close family ties and help end the intergenerational cycle of incarceration;
  • AB 1352 – a bill that allows defendants to withdraw a guilty or no contest plea to avoid harsh and unintended consequences;
  • and AB 1056 – a bill that would create the Second Chance Program for Community Re-entry and provide direction to the Board of State and Community Corrections grant-making process to prioritize community-based alternatives.