This will not be my only message on this subject.
Like you, I am filled with anguish over George Floyd's death.
As a person of privilege, I am listening to local and national leaders of color to think about what we can, as a community, build that will deliver actual change towards the goal of equity and justice for people of color in a manner that lasts beyond this moment and beyond this next election.
But for the time being, there are actions we can and are taking right now.
First and foremost, we can remember the life of George Floyd. As a city, we are flying our flags at half-staff and I encourage you to read Mr. Floyd's obituary. After reflecting upon his life, think about how many other young black lives have been cut too short by both the overt and veiled racism in this nation.
This Thursday, from 6:30-7:30pm, Chief Morgan will host a discussion with residents to address any questions you may have about policing in the City of Mount Rainier. Questions should be submitted beforehand to firstname.lastname@example.org. You may attend the meeting one of two ways:
- Via Google Meet at:meet.google.com/xfx-imgu-sud
- Over the phone at +1 614-992-2425 (PIN: 872399356
Then, next Tuesday, the 16th, the Mayor will introduce a resolution to catalog the history of injustices black lives have faced in this nation and to state, unequivocally, that Black Lives Matter.
We will follow that discussion with a conversation on how we can ensure equity and justice in policing. Both Celina and Ward 2 representative Scott Cecil will present ideas for ensuring equity and justice in Mount Rainier’s police department. Celina has forwarded eight (8) "Can't Wait" concrete policy reforms to Chief Morgan, who will address how some of these reforms are already built-in to our city's policing, and which ones we need to consider building into how we do business.
While our efforts last year to restructure our police department from a patrol-based to community-based model of policing has paid dividends (over the last three months, our officers led the way in delivering food to those in need, buttressed by the community relationships they have built over the last year), more can and should be done to ensure this model of policing accounts for systemic racial bias.
That said, policing is not the only area where injustice continues to prevent the equity our nation professes to believe in. And beating back over 400 years of structured racism will not occur through mere changes to police department policies or staffing levels. Among other things, it will require equity in education and modes of wealth building that heirs to white privilege, like myself, have used to build safe and secure families. I will be drawn to these disparities as I listen to our leaders of color over the weeks and months ahead, and decide how I can use my privilege to secure the same safety and security for people of color that I myself enjoy.
Finally, there is a Langston Hughes poem that I have come back to over the last couple of weeks. You can read the whole poem here, but here is an excerpt from the end that sticks in my heart:
Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that's almost dead today.
O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine—the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!