For Immediate Release (May 30, 2020)
African American Community Roundtable
Issues Calls-For-Action Amid Challenging Times
Howard County, Maryland: The African American Community Roundtable of Howard County releases the following statement on the current state of the nation:
On behalf of The African American Community Roundtable of Howard County, we must address the increased racial tensions nationally and locally. In a matter of weeks, we have observed: 1) the nation’s president refuse to display the portrait of the first African American president; 2) multiple killings of unarmed African American men; and 3) video footage in which a Central Park dogwalker attempted to weaponize law enforcement against an African American man for requesting that she follow the law and put her dog on a leash. America’s four hundred plus year pandemic of racism continues to spread virally with no sign of flattening. Racism is a public health crisis. Our nation is sick.
We have witnessed inexcusable corruption in Brunswick, Georgia within a District Attorney’s office that swore to maintain law and order yet refused to prosecute a former colleague. Video footage of murders in Georgia and Minnesota received millions of views without either state government so much as filing charges. Only after months of hearing the outcry of social justice first responders, Georgia eventually filed charges for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. Minnesota, on the other hand, still fails to charge all of those involved in the murder of George Floyd. Our nation is sick.
The words “black lives matter” invoke more than the name of an organization or a political campaign, but a collective cry to a nation’s conscience to realize the insufficiency of cosmetic surgery to the cancers of racism and emboldened white supremacy. This is not an invisible enemy but a scourge in plain sight. Our nation is sick.
These occurrences cause a range of emotions – from sadness to frustration to anger, but we will not be deflated. Our society deserves our engagement, response and support. These incidents in no way demolish the areas of progress that have been made. These incidents in no way suggest that all law enforcement has contracted the racism virus, nor that all white Americans have it either. However, it is alarming that we still find ignorance, fear, and hatred even in seemingly safe spaces during broad daylight. Our nation is sick.
The racism virus is far more contagious than COVID-19, has filled more coffins, and still reduces brilliant men and women to scratching their heads in search of a cure. Trump previously encouraged law enforcement not to be “too nice” or to protect a suspect’s head when putting them into a paddy wagon. He also condemned consent decrees designed to reduce police brutality. Now, we witness the intimidation, emotional distress, and death inflicted upon communities of color due to the virus of racism in the absence of executive leadership. He actually tweeted that he would send in the military and threatened “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Our nation is sick.
It is imperative in the pandemic of racism and intense racial hostility that America listens to those of us who are experts on social justice. It is necessary for us to remain vigilant in demanding accountability for every unjust act without promulgating the same form of evil. We must join in the collective clarion call for consistent unyielding direct action until the United States of America is cured.
We request individuals of all races, religions, creeds, and ages to step out beyond the state of “wokeness” and simply posting on social media to take on the following actions to heal our national and local communities:
We must vote for candidates who are pro racial equity and antiracist. Angela Davis once said, “In a racist society, it is not enough to be nonracist we must be antiracist.” The racism virus continues to spread as a result of the inaction and, in some instances, the support from many of our elected officials. Racist officials and those who condone racism need to be quarantined and removed from public office immediately. They may have appeared asymptomatic of racism when entering office, but when we see the symptoms they must be removed.
We must demand oversight for law enforcement and real community review/advisory boards. Law enforcement officers hold the power of life and death without significant accountability. Your failure to actively demand review boards equates to a refusal to protect our community. Our county is not immune to biased policing or the fallout from biased policing. It is imperative that Howard Countians remain vigilant in securing reasonable oversight of biased policing.
We must adopt the spirit of the Department of Homeland Security’s campaign “If You See Something, Say Something®” There would be no conversation about Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, or Christian Cooper without video footage. As a result of these videos, racists have lost jobs, lost authority, and lost the ability to further spread their sickness. As African Americans, we have grown tired of justifying our existence in public spaces and explaining our entitlement to basic rights. The rights of many are being violated daily. We must record discrimination, report discrimination, expose discrimination, and stand against discrimination. If you see something, say something!
We must support and fully fund the Howard County Public School System’s Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion. The racism virus is in our county. Last fall, the Board of Education convened to address redistricting and historic inequality. While many redistricting opponents brought spirited and insightful debate, some of the opponents to redistricting threatened the lives of members of the Board of Education. Unfortunately, the racism modeled by many of those adults is often expressed through their children in our classrooms. We need to be fully committed to the Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion. As evident nationally, Howard County also still suffers from the ills of racism.
We must deescalate racial tension. In a recent protest challenging Howard County’s partial shelter in place order, demonstrators wore t-shirts suggesting that County Executive Dr. Calvin Ball lacked male genitalia. The demonstrators operated within their First Amendment liberty to criticize county leadership even though they used coarse and crude language. Based on photos from the Open Howard County Facebook page, some demonstrators also appeared with Blue Lives Matter signs. These demonstrators walked within the lines of their constitutional rights. There is nothing wrong with supporting the police; in fact, we are deeply saddened and enraged when officers are insulted, provoked, injured, or even killed while in the line of duty. However, against the backdrop of national events and the recent threats to members of the Board of Education, the disrespectful anti-Calvin Ball t-shirts and the Blue Lives Matter demonstrators can also be perceived to be stoking racial fear and hate. Opponents and allies must make wise strategic decisions regarding whether permissible actions are advisable actions in a time when our county and nation are sick. We must check the temperatures of people on all sides of an issue. We must not spread ignorance and hate.
We must work with everyone to improve hate crime legislation in our state as well as throughout this country. The virus of racism, injustice, and white supremacy remain borderless so we must fight it near, far, and abroad. Write letters, make phone calls, donate money, march, and support effectual hate crime legislation and first responder organizations that confront racism and the infected.
It is embarrassing that abolitionists had to say, “black lives matter” and debate the immorality of slavery. It is disgraceful that integrationists had to say, “black lives matter” to argue the immorality of American apartheid. It is shameful that we still must shout “black lives matter” to find consensus that black people are people. This is not a badge of victimhood or a culture of outrage, but a prognosis that our sick nation and ill community often refuses to hear when racism spreads. Black lives absolutely do matter! We must say it until we can say it no more. Please say it when addressing health disparities, police brutality, housing discrimination, environmental racism, wage inequality, and so many other injustices. We do not say it to suggest that other lives do not matter. We say it in response to the sick racists who tell us that black lives do not matter.
Our heads are not bowed low. Our hearts are not discouraged. We have tightened our resolve and our strategy against this nation’s centuries’ old public health crisis.
African American Community Roundtable of Howard County