Sunday represented the 20th day nationally, and the 13th day in Columbia, of protests.
While some attempt to degrade the protests as acts of lawlessness, rioting and the lot, the fact of the matter is that the protests demonstrate that people are wanting and demanding an end to police brutality and the dismantling of systemic racism in all American institutions, including the police departments across this country.
This is an opportunity that we as a community can begin to reimagine what policing in Columbia can look like for the present and the future.
How can we engage in community-oriented policing without over-policing neighborhoods that are already over-policed?
Is it possible to defund police departments in such a way that the resources needed for mental health, housing, medical health and other social needs can be better addressed and still maintain policing?
Can we imagine a community where the goal of policing is no longer domination and control, but actual protection and service? I think we can — and we must.
I believe that there are more good people in this community than bad people. I believe that most families want the same things: the best for their family members and the opportunity to grow and thrive without obstacles that discriminate and oppress.
We all have sons, daughters, wives, husbands, partners, nieces, nephews and grandchildren. None of us want any of these we love killed by police brutality.
The fact is that all of us could be victims of police murder, particularly if you are a person of color.
I also believe that while Columbia has the same issues and problems of larger cities, we have the capacity to solve more of these problems than larger communities. All cities have a long history of racism and police brutality. Columbia is no exception; after all we live in “Little Dixie.”
But we can effectively dismantle racism in Columbia. The first illustration of this truth is that the protesters in Columbia are black, white, Latino, Native American, Asian, Christian, Muslim, non-Christian, older and younger, LGBTQIAA and non-binary.
The same is true of protesters nationally and around the world. They are a diverse group. They all demand justice. Why? Because they know that justice for any of us is justice for all of us.
Do not be fooled by thoughtless rhetoric. Some say that all of this is about the Democrats and their agenda. Other lament that it is socialism, or subtle communism.
Most black people who know their history realize that we can no longer place our faith in any one political party. Democrats and Republicans have sold out black people since we arrived in 1619.
We remember that white Democrats and Republicans organized and perpetuated violence against the black community. We remember how Democrats and Republicans enacted Jim Crow laws, instituted White Citizens Councils, promoted segregated housing, schools and restaurants.
Those of us who are “woke” vote for the best candidate to do the job, the candidate who will unite us as a nation and not divide us, and one who understands and believes in the common good, not the good of the rich at the expense of the poor.
For black Americans, it is about voting for someone with character, not political platforms. That point guides our decision-making.
As I told the crowd at last Sunday’s protest, this is a time for creative imagining.
We must reject old paradigms and practices and create the fundamentally new.
The “new” must be grounded in justice, not profit. We must define what we mean when we utter, “we the people.”
“We” must include all of us and not just some of us. We must challenge old stereotypes and old patterns of behavior and thought including brutality and racial, gender and sexual profiling.
The symbols of racial superiority must be removed because they not only point to a reality, but they also participate in that reality.
Miss me with the argument that it is just Southern history unless you are going to be honest enough to admit that Southern Confederate history is a history of murder, rape, and dehumanization of black, brown and Native American people.
I agree with Councilman Ian Thomas that one of the first things that we must do in Columbia is to ban chokeholds.
I hope the mayor and the City Council will concur with this idea.
I wish that the governor, and the Boone County commissioners would do the same. It is time to reimagine what we can be as a community. I believe we can do it.