Open letter on George Floyd tragedy from DeKalb Commissioner Lorraine Cochran-Johnson

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Dear District 7 Constituents, Family, and Friends,

After watching the events during the last week, it is will great hope, but pronounced sadness I address my constituents as a result of the social unrest plaguing communities across the globe following the murder of George Floyd. Mr. Floyd’s senseless murder at the hands of those sworn to protect him has caused outrage by people across the globe. His death signifies a tipping-point for many Americans and African Americans alike, as his death paints a familiar portrait of unfair treatment towards African American men in America. As Mr. Floyd’s murder was captured by onlookers and seen across the globe, the murder of George Floyd is an overt and ever-present reminder of the injustices that many African American men suffer without the privilege of watchful eyes. It is time America has the courageous conversation on race, racism and its implications across all sectors of life.
For far too long America has turned a blind eye to the issue of race and race relations in America. Perhaps Cornell West said it best in his 1993 book Race Matters, but America is yet to listen. For those who are in denial that race matters, it is an uncomfortable conversation. However, if we are to heal and progress as a community, we must acknowledge and openly discuss race, inherent biases, and the implications stereotypes play on the reality of life for black and brown people everywhere. Moreover, we must stand in solidarity for what is right. We must demand justice for all as we acknowledge an injustice to one man is an injustice to all men. We must no longer be complacent as black men like Ahmaud Arbery are chased and murdered in the street as they jog. America must take a zero-tolerance approach to the unjust treatment of not only African American men, but anyone who is victimized by the system in which they must submit on any level – as compliance is compliance.
To those who have taken to the street to loot and protest, I ask that you think carefully. Congressman John Lewis said it best, “I know your pain, your rage, your sense of despair and hopelessness. Justice has, indeed, been denied for far too long. Rioting, looting, and burning is not the way. Organize. Demonstrate. Sit-in. Stand-up. Vote. Be constructive, not destructive. History has proven time and again that non-violent, peaceful protest is the way to achieve the justice and equality that we all deserve.” I know America has failed black and brown people, but we effect change through having a seat at the table – not in a jail cell. For our failure to protect black and brown boys and men, I apologize. We have all been silent too long as you have suffered injustices in America simply because of the color of your skin. I ask all people to be law abiding citizens, even when we do not face equality, for the power of the pen and steadfast action will see us victorious in our quest for justice.
As we ponder how to move forward, let there be a clear understanding that the ultimate battle is fought at the polls. My fellow constituents and friends it is time we vote. America has elected the most divisive President in modern history. Continuously, President Trump perpetuates violence through his words. He courts supremacy and uses his position of power as a platform for counterproductive rhetoric and self-indulgence. We must not overlook the importance of those who represent us. We need firm, decisive leaders who have meaningful conversations and act decisively to secure the rights of all and act in the self-interest of our communities and the greater cause of America.
To the American justice system, it is time we evaluate police arrest polices and open disciplinary files. To our judges and jurors, we must hold those accountable who engage in injustices and kill innocent men not because of their actions, but because of their inherent biases, personal fears and insecurities. America, it is time we all acknowledge we do not see things as they are, we see them as we are. During many candid conversations I have stated, we are all products of our environment. All men have inherent biases; however, it is when we allow our personal biases to interfere with our perception of another man that we become racist. There is no room in America for racism or those who perpetuate it. I join former President Barak Obama in his call for police agencies across the U.S. to critically review their arrest and use of force policies. To this cause, I am dedicated in DeKalb. Police officers must clearly understand their boundaries and the rights of those they apprehend during the execution of their duties as officers. Moreover, sworn officers must know failure to treat any man with dignity or follow procedures will have swift consequences. To our judges and jurors, the day has passed when we overtly see an injustice and you tell America, we did not see what is evident.
During the next several weeks and years, America must heal. To make America great we must hold to the principles of our constitution and the inherent belief that “all men are created equal”. As I have watched countless communities and people of all hues across the globe come together in solidarity to end the senseless murder of black and brown men, I see clearly the possibility of eminent change. In the words of Robert Kennedy, “Some men see things are they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.” Today I have a dream. The same dream of so many civil leaders and visionaries who have come before me – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa – that we see the world around us for what it is. It is time we acknowledge our transgressions as individuals, be transparent in our dealings and become one race – the human race.
Your Commissioner,
Lorraine Cochran-Johnson, M.P.A.
Super District 7, DeKalb County

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