Dismantling Racist Systems
When I first ran for this office, it was with the desire to provide equal and just representation for every single person living in this Ward. I came to this office with a listening ear and a willingness to learn. I know that my experience as white woman in America is very different from the people of color I was elected to represent. The murder of George Floyd has once again highlighted the racism that continues to plague our country.
I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch the video. The photos and written descriptions of George Floyd gasping “I can’t breathe” as he was brutally murdered by the police officer constricting his airway are enough to bring me to tears. It is another example of the casual way that people of color, especially African Americans, are regularly brutalized in this country.
I am watching, and I am listening to my African American friends who fear walking down the street in a neighborhood they’ve lived in their whole lives but in recent years, with newer, whiter neighbors moving in, have been made to feel like criminals. I am watching, and I am listening, to my friends who are worn out and worn down from the pain of the everyday injustices, of the brutal murders, of how hard it is to be African American in this country.If you have white skin like me, you do not experience these same fears. That is the essence of White Privilege.
As a parent, I spend more waking hours than I ever imagined possible worrying about my daughter’s safety, her happiness, and her future. But my daughter is white, and because of that, she is safer than the children of my African American neighbors. That is reality, and it is not okay.
Here in Ward 1, we continue to grapple with gun violence, and keeping our community safe. What I have learned as a white leader representing our diverse community, is that for many people of color, more police does not equal greater safety. This has been clearly illustrated by the murder of George Floyd, and compels me to continue to press for more accountability from our police, de-militarization of our police forces across the country, and deeper investment in the community partners who can focus on lasting solutions to violence. We will be discussing public safety in Ward 1 in my upcoming annual public safety meeting telephone town hall, which will be announced shortly.
To help facilitate more conversation around these topics within our community, I’m sharing information on the current status of some of the District’s work around racial justice.
Ongoing Racial Justice Initiatives
Racial injustice comes in many forms, whether it is inequity in our education system, past and present-day housing discrimination, lack of access to good jobs, or our racist criminal justice system. The Council continues to adopt measures that seek to address these injustices, such as decriminalizing fare evasion, banning employers from asking about criminal history in job interviews, a focus on early childhood education and early interventions to help bridge the learning gap, and several major initiatives that specifically address our criminal justice system:
The Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results Act, seeks to use public health approaches to prevent violence and reduce incarceration. The NEAR Act covers a wide range of public safety initiatives designed to reduce violent crime and improve community-police relations.
The Youth Rehabilitation Amendment Act was an overhaul of the landmark bill that seeks to help young people rehabilitate after committing an offense and avoid becoming a repeat offender.
The Comprehensive Youth Justice Amendment Act prevents children from entering the criminal justice system, reduces over-incarceration, provides age-appropriate sentences for children, improves the conditions of confinement, expands oversight of services
Examining What More We Can Do
We must continue to strike down unjust laws that negatively impact people of color, until we have completely dismantled the racist systems in place throughout our government.
We must continue monitoring the implementation of the NEAR Act, and implement additional policies informed by our data collection. Last year I called on MPD to end their practice of Stop and Frisk, which on paper is already not permitted. According to those who have experienced it though, it still happens and it needs to stop.
We must past the Race Equity Achieves Results Act, so that each policy we enact has been considered through a race equity lens.
We must pass the Second Look Act, which would provide meaningful sentence review for those who committed crimes as youth.
For those of us who have benefited from racism, we have to be prepared to feel the discomfort that comes with losing a little bit of our privilege. Because we didn’t earn that privilege. It was bestowed upon us by the color of our skin, by the neighborhood we were born in, and by the unjust ways in which people of color have been treated for hundreds of years in our country. And the sooner we can acknowledge that, the sooner we can begin to rectify that, the sooner we can do the work of healing our communities.
The future of this city must be focused on all of us working together. Below are reading suggestions on these topics.
White Fragility - Essential reading for all white people, and especially those who want to understand how racism impacts our neighbors of color, as well as how to talk about racism without re-victimizing those we are seeking to understand and support (Get it at DCPL)
The New Jim Crow - A comprehensive explanation of how structural racism has led to mass incarceration of African Americans and the militarization of our local and state police forces (Get it at DCPL)
The Color of Law - A history of housing discrimination in the United States, a particular important read as the District continues to re-write our Comprehensive Plan and Future Land Use Map (Get it at DCPL)
Bleeding Out - recommended to me by Moms Demand Action, this provided first-hand accounts of those who have been impacted by violence, with evidence-based solutions on how to end it (Get it at DCPL)
For those of you who have been participating in protests here in the District, please be safe and keep those around you safe. Despite the stay-at-home order having been lifted by the Mayor, please follow her advice and self-quarantine if you have not been able to social distance during your civic engagement.