I’m the mother of two boys. Although they look and sound more like men these days, they are still my babies.
Like most parents, I remember the day my husband and I brought them home, and how we would jump up to check on them if they made the slightest sound.
I remember when our first son spiked a fever and we carefully watched his symptoms to try and determine if we needed to take him to the emergency room. We were so worried that night.
And, like many mothers of hockey players and skateboarders, I’ve watched enough falls, crashes, nose bleeds and stitches being put into someone’s head to last me until the end of time.
But I have never known, nor will I ever know, the feeling that a mother of a black child feels when her baby walks out the front door every single day to go on a jog, to a friend’s house or to work.
I listen to black mothers and fathers tell stories of how their children were harassed, dismissed or injured, and it makes my heart hurt. Aside from the worry that they are driving too fast or the daily trips and falls of growing teen boys, I don’t ever give it a second thought that my children could be injured because of the color of their skin.
That’s white privilege. And because of that I am sad and very angry that we are still here.
I’m also the mayor of this city I love.
I’ve only been mayor for over a year now, and while we’ve made good progress toward accountability, transparency and policy creation, I know we have more to do. Those of us in positions to help need to listen, and then we need to act with strong intention to dismantle the lingering racism that exists in our country. We need to start right here, at home. I believe mayors across the country should and will be a strong force of positive change.
We continue to make progress on:
- Training in conflict resolution, de-escalation, RITE (Racial Intelligence Training and Engagement), and Implicit Racial Bias for all members of the Charleston Police Department, city administration and members of City Council.
- Soliciting input and engaging in the process of revising policies and procedures pertaining to use of police force.
- Creation of a community-led group that will work directly with the city and CPD on several areas related to policing, including police policy and procedures.
- Remaining committed to building positive relationships with local partners to address the social determinants of health, including creation of the Mayor’s Coordinated Addiction Response Effort (CARE), development of a Mental Health Rapid Response Team to provide wrap-around support guided by a social work perspective and employment of the first ever Homeless Outreach Coordinator for the city.
- Creating a task force under the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department’s umbrella that will address social determinants of health generally, and more specifically with respect to the impact of COVID-19 on the African-American community in Charleston.
- “Banning the box,” which removed questions regarding criminal history from city employment applications and deferred a background check (for positions requiring such checks) until after a recommendation for hire is made. This policy provides a second chance to people with convictions, while also recognizing the criminal justice system disproportionately affects black citizens — often making obtaining employment more difficult.
This administration is committed to giving people a second chance and making additional changes that support diversity and work to eliminate race-based discrimination.
Finally, Charleston Pastor Marlon Collins recently reminded me that creating programs and policies are important, but they will never work without good relationships, throughout the entire city, with our communities of color.
He’s right. I’m still listening and learning — and acting on what I hear and I learn.
This is my promise to you moving forward: We will take action; we will continue to create and implement progressive policies; and we will continue to work to create strong relationships to fully ensure we are all moving our community forward in a way that bends Martin Luther King’s arc of the moral universe toward the elimination of racism, the promotion of peace and the establishment of justice with freedom and dignity for all.