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Following up on my statement ([link removed][UNIQID]) from Saturday, as we enter a second day of mandatory curfew in DC and in the midst of protest and a pandemic, I imagine that the last week has been extraordinarily difficult to bear for most people, as it has been for me.
The killing of George Floyd is deeply disturbing and so incredibly painful to watch. And, it demands justice.
It is images like these that evoke thoughts from my youth that, no matter how much I try to suppress them, simmer just beneath the surface. I know how it feels to be gazed upon with suspicion for no other reason than the color of my skin. I know what it is like to lose someone extremely close to my family to a police officer’s bullet. I have been arrested and know what excessive use of force feels like. As traumatic as my experiences are to me, I know that, sadly, they are not unique.
While the facts may differ, the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery are each reprehensible, as have been countless other deaths of black men, women, boys, and girls that have occurred at the hands of law enforcement and at the expense of justice. This repetition of the unjust and illegal killing of African American people is part of the collective trauma of being black in America.
Our country’s history of slavery and racial segregation is well known and deeply rooted. To this day, race continues to shape the political, economic, social, and cultural institutions of our society nationally and here in the District of Columbia. Race permeates the lived experiences of all Americans yet insidiously caste black people as inferior and assigns black lives less value.
This must end.
In times like these, when emotions are high and protests abound, as difficult as it may be, we must move beyond simply reassessing a problem that has long been apparent and move toward action—action that is intentional and results in solutions that address the root causes of racial inequities. The destruction to property and lives that has followed many of these protests is a dangerous and unnecessary distraction from the real issues we must confront.
This is a seminal moment. It has never been more evident than now that commitment to true justice for people of color—particularly for black descendants of slaves—must collectively be our most important work.
In recent years, and especially over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have observed many people, including individuals working in government, nonprofits, and the private sector, speak repeatedly about equity and inclusion. The phrase has been used so often that I have begun to wonder about its usefulness. What I know about the body of which I am a member is that we fund our priorities. If the health and economic well-being as well as the safety and sanctity of black lives is important to this Council and this Mayor, then we will dedicate the resources needed to ensure those priorities are met.
I will not support any further efforts to convene task forces that simply rehash well-known statistics or promise future resources that never materialize. I will fight to create policies and support a budget that reflects what we say we believe. People in leadership must do the things necessary to close the gaps between how black people and live in America and how others live. If we talk about it and then do nothing, we do not belong in positions of power. Without distraction, I remain committed to these ideals.
Yours in service,
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