A letter to Chatham County’s police from a local pastor

Posted 6/19/20

Today, I speak before you with a myriad of emotions awakened by the horrific murder of George Floyd. I watched a human being that I distinctly identify with in race and ethnicity, subjugated to a …

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A letter to Chatham County’s police from a local pastor

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Posted

Today, I speak before you with a myriad of emotions awakened by the horrific murder of George Floyd. I watched a human being that I distinctly identify with in race and ethnicity, subjugated to a public lynching by the pandemic of systemic racism, white privilege, and bigotry. When George says, “I can’t breathe!” we all gasped and watch life seep from his body which graphically demonstrated what people in communities of color across the country have complained about for decades: the blatant use of excessive and deadly force by the police. I am outraged, angry, despondent, grief-stricken, paralyzed with numbness. Why?

Because I live in a country where my African-American body and mind are not valued equally to White Americans. Charles Blow writes, “...we must also recognize that to have to live in a world, in a society, in which you feel that your very life is constantly under threat because of the color of your skin is also a form of violence. It is a daily, ambient, gnawing violence.” I have been taught to avoid this pandemic of hatred and violence by submitting to a police officer’s discretion in his or her interpretation of “reasonable suspicion.” I am told to look straight ahead, don’t make eye contact, keep hands visibly seen and do whatever that is asked despite humiliation so that I can come home tonight.

You may think I am sensitive or speaking irrationally, but daily I carry the scars and wounds of injustice and racial discrimination. One day as a teenager, I asked my grandfather about our lineage and name of the Ingrams. He replied that our last name is from local slave owners in the same town in which we lived. I was at a loss of words because it seemed like my lineage abruptly ended. So, ladies and gentlemen, every time I write my last name, I am reminded of the history of chattel slavery, the dehumanizing conditions of my ancestors and the present-day reminder that I may be subject to a public lynching. Enough is enough! Enough is enough! We demand accountability!

The demand for accountability is not new! Too many of our communities have grieved too many times. We have been here before. Yet nothing seems to change. The problem is not that we lack a playbook for fixing excessive force and brutality. We have one. The problem is that we have not successfully followed the one we have. Too few departments meaningfully involve the community in setting policies or designing officer training. The number of departments that provide officers with in-depth training on procedural justice — or the process of ensuring fairness, voice and transparency in police interactions — is far too low. We see very few agencies that require officers to log all non-voluntary interactions with civilians and rigorously analyze the data to determine whether some populations are stopped more than others.

The time is now. We will not accept anything less than change. Change is inevitable and change is now.

Therefore, we submit in good conscious to you all:

• Be willing to learn from black people about the ways they feel disadvantaged and find ways to participate in changing those systems.

• Be willing to use your privilege and resources to promote and equip black people to leadership positions.

• Be willing to allow black people to be at the forefront of writing policies to reverse systemic racism, systemic poverty, health disparities and the militarization of community guardianship.

• But most importantly, be willing to risk to your own comfort and intentionally engage in meaningful conversations with black people. Authentic trustful relationships will take time and you will make mistakes but apologize and allow points of view different from your own.

We request to make a commitment to the following:

• Set a date and agenda for meeting again.

• Establish an intergenerational working group of people of color commissioned to select one of several existing recommendations for transforming “policing” into “community guardianship” because the very term “policing” establishes a hostile hunting relationship with communities before officers arrive in them.

• Each municipality represented here will commit to turn the recommendations of the working group into policy and practice so that public safety supersedes law enforcement.

Read about a police reform roundtable with pastors and law enforcement by clicking here.

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Zeno Ponder

This article if effectively a temper tantrum, and not an especially coherent one. If you continue to teach people that they are not responsible for their actions, that they are victims, and that anything that makes them unhappy is someone else's fault, your unfortunate situation will be perpetuated indefinitely.

Saturday, July 4