This letter to the editor was submitted to LebTown. Read our submission policy here.
In a recent series of letters published by LebTown, Amaury Abreu asked that local officials publicly state that anti-racism is a priority for them in serving Lebanon County. Representative Russ Diamond responded, describing his dismay that Mr. Abreu didn’t reach out to him personally.
In the middle of that letter was one paragraph – two sentences – in which Representative Diamond referenced his call for unity, which was also published in LebTown. In that initial letter, he argued that the fact of Mr. Floyd’s blackness was irrelevant to his murder, before switching to a discussion of COVID-19 precautions and condemnation of rioting. Likewise, in his response to Mr. Abreu, Representative Diamond made the argument that race is irrelevant in these discussions, and that America’s core values are based on individual equality.
What was missing from that discussion was any acknowledgment that the Constitution, in keeping with the times in which it was written, didn’t actually mean that every individual was endowed with rights. Women were definitely not entitled to things like property ownership or voting. Slaves, brought here by force, were likewise prohibited. And so, the relative equality we now enjoy has come about precisely because people have pointed out those differences.
And, even at that, black people today are more likely to suffer in our legal system, including in interactions with police, than White people are. Black men in particular are overrepresented, statistically, across the board. They are more likely to be pulled over, more likely to be killed, and more likely to wind up in prison.
It should be simple to say you are anti-racist. I certainly am. And while this is a political statement, it shouldn’t be a “left” versus “right” political stance. Of course, saying you’re anti-racist is the easy part. The hard part, for many of us, is actually being anti-racist. Being anti-racist is a lifelong journey. I haven’t been perfect on that journey and I apologize to those I’ve hurt for my failures along the way. But I promise to keep trying, keep learning, and keep doing better.
I would encourage our leaders to consider some basic steps that could help. One example is making sure all police officers have functioning body cameras. De-escalation training and more stringent hiring practices for the police would also help. Finally, funding other resources such as social workers and informal educational opportunities could strengthen communities while allowing police to focus on the job they signed up to do. Most of all, we should listen to the voices in our community, particularly those who are marginalized. We are stronger together, and acknowledging our differences while engaging in good faith discussions about our problems, instead of sweeping them under the rug, is a good first step to truly being anti-racist.
Matthew Duvall is an instructional designer and the Democratic candidate for the 102nd legislative district.