Dallas is our new ground zero for change. We must continue talking and stay at the table when things get heated. We have to BE THE CHANGE we want to see. Pain and hurt do not show prejudice and are experienced by all, regardless of our skin color or ethnic background.
After the shooting death of Alton Sterling, I took it in stride while acknowledging the work that still needed to be done as I continue my role on the Cleveland Community Police Commission and Greater Cleveland Congregations (GCC). Then, I woke up to the Facebook live-stream death of Philando Castile. This one brought me to tears throughout the day on Thursday, July 8th. I felt heavy and was thankful that I could cancel a few personal commitments and spend 90% of the day locked away.
I eventually took to Facebook.
“I am angry, VERY disappointed and DEEPLY hurt to wake up this morning to yet another police related shooting of a Black man. These Black and Brown victims of police shootings could easily be my own sons. You know what? They are all my sons, seeking justice in an injustice society where the criminal justice system and the systemic ills of poverty have been allowed to fester and give forth an evil stench. A stench that is embedded deep within our American fabric. Thus it rises up from across America. A stench that energizes itself through tragedy and the churning wheel of despair designed to disarm a people of their dignity. WE MUST NOT ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN. Black lives matter!!!”
“Wherever you are … whatever your demands … nothing changes if we do not collectively demand and expect CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM that touches every nook and cranny of these United States of America.
“America, we have a deep seated corrosive evil that disregards the relevance of a significant number of minorities… Black Lives Must Matter! That’s non-negotiable!”
But the pain and hurt did not stop there. Thursday evening, I joined the speechlessness of our entire nation when a sniper took advantage of the hurt of my fellow Americans and ambushed Dallas police officers who were providing protection for those leading a peaceful protest. More than ever, I am disappointed and concerned about America’s trajectory, and I want to express condolences to these law enforcement families about this tragic news.
These events have touched a place within my soul that wants to hold the Cleveland Community Police Commission and GCC accountable for doing meaningful work that leads to real, meaningful Criminal Justice Reform.
I challenge us to have the tough conversations, do the research about our nation’s history and its effect on our present. Perhaps many of us deal with PTSD* and others deal with white privilege.
*Racism and PTSD: Much research has been conducted on the social, economic, and political effects of racism, but little research recognizes the psychological effects of racism on people of color (Carter, 2007). Chou, Asnaani, and Hofmann (2012) found that perceived racial discrimination was associated with increased mental disorders in African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans, suggesting that racism may in itself be a traumatic experience.
Support police reform and social justice efforts by following the work of Greater Cleveland Congregations (GCC), a non-partisan coalition of faith communities and partner organizations in Cuyahoga County working together to build power for social justice. GCC unites people across lines of race, class, religion and geography to promote public, private and civic sector actions which strengthen and improve the quality of life of our neighborhoods.
Following an investigation in 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice found that there was reasonable cause to believe that there was a pattern and practice of excessive force in Cleveland that violated the U.S. Constitution and federal law. The City of Cleveland and DOJ entered into an agreement (Consent Decree) that requires the Cleveland Division of Police to make a number of fundamental changes to its policies, practices, procedures, training, use of data, and more. Dr. Yvonne Conner serves on the Cleveland Community Police Commission, a group of community members who live or work in Cleveland and are charged with holding the city accountable for meaningful change in our criminal justice system. Members include representatives from faith-based organizations, civil rights advocates, business/philanthropic community, organizations representing communities of color, advocacy organizations, youth or student organizations, academia, individuals with expertise in the challenges facing people with mental illness or the homeless.