They are Leading

In my previous post I shared a letter I sent to my city officials. Obviously, a lot — a LOT — has happened since then. The mayor, several city council members, and the police chief all replied to me. I won’t share those personal correspondences, but I do want to share the public statements they have made. After all, bold antiracist public statements are what I asked them for. Only seems fair to share their statements.

Naperville has now had five protests (that I know of). Yes, after one of those there was some property destroyed and some looting. But no police-involved physical confrontations. Like everywhere else, our city has work to do — a fact repeatedly acknowledged by our mayor. But overall I’m proud of our city and our leaders.

Councilman Dr. Benny White is Naperville’s first black city council member. I’m glad we’ve made this tiny step of progress…but Naperville was incorporated in 1831. I have no idea when we first convened a city council, 100 years ago? 150? The full 189? Whenever it was, we are basically the Boston Red Sox of city councils. Ugh. Anyway, Dr. White spoke at a protest last Saturday and shared these remarks on Facebook (where Councilman Patrick Kelly also shared Dr. White’s speech):

“Following the recent racist events that have taken place this week, I have finally found the words to summarize my thoughts on these heartbreaking incidents.

I’m tired of seeing stories of how the lives of African Americans have been traditionally minimized and marginalized.

African Americans have been victims of police brutality for a long time. There are still some police departments across the country who have accepted bad leadership, rogue cops, or a combination of both. These missteps have led to the deaths of countless Black men and women, victims who could easily be my wife, my sister, my son, my daughter, ME… the list goes on. Although the use of video has brought many of these injustices to light, Blacks are still being murdered at the hands of the police and the majority of these killers have not been convicted of a crime. When they have, it has often been for a lesser offense than murder.

Many police departments around the country have made great strides in this area and I would like to personally thank Chief Robert Marshall and the Naperville Police Department for the work they have done, including the implementation of de-escalation and implicit bias training. I will continue partnering with the department to ensure we are fostering a safe and inclusive environment.

The question on the table – where do we go from here? I acknowledge that we have made tremendous progress, but clearly, we have a long way to go.

We need the non-Black members of our community to increase their understanding of the challenges faced by their Black and Brown neighbors. We are not okay. We are sick of dying. We are tired of living in fear. Challenge your own biases. Confront your inner circles when inappropriate things are said. Discuss and learn from one another. Read the books. Listen to the podcasts. Follow activists on social media. Do the research. Speak out when you see racism, and don’t tolerate it in our community. Get involved in organizations that are trying to make a difference in our community. Organizations like Naperville Neighbors United, Unity Partnership, Indivisible Naperville, Naper Pride, and the Naperville Interfaith Leaders Association are just a few of many organizations you can go to and check out. Come to City Council Meetings and stay abreast of what’s happening and let your voice be heard.

To paraphrase Angela Davis, “it’s not enough to not be racist — you need to be antiracist”. To those of you in our community who have not been a part of the “uncomfortable” conversations. The time is NOW to become a part of the discussion.”

On Sunday, Police Chief Robert Marshall released this statement and shared it on social media:

“Watching the video of George Floyd, in distress, pleading for mercy/help, which he did not receive, saddened and disgusted me. Condolences to the Floyd family-Npd officers are trained continuously how to de-escalate conflict & render aid to those who need it. I know people are hurting and in pain but we must continue to work together in our community.”

This next part is going to get long. Because Mayor Steve Chirico has been all over it: participating in protests, listening, kneeling, and releasing multiple statements. Naturally, I don’t agree with everything he says. And, yes, of course, he’s a politician so there’s a chance this is just what he thinks he has to say. But that’s not the sense I get of him or his words.

If you read all the statements I think you will find yourself agreeing with me that our city is in good, compassionate hands of a leader who is willing to learn, grow, and change.

May 31st statement:

“What happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis is unconscionable.

What happened to Christian Cooper in Central Park is unconscionable.

And what’s happened here in recent months in Naperville is unconscionable.

We cannot let these events be relegated to just another name, another page in the history books. It is all of our responsibility as members of society to discuss these events and have real, open, and honest discussions about race and racism. Even if those discussions make us uncomfortable, because that’s the space where real change begins.

We can’t pretend these events didn’t happen or that we are immune in Naperville. It is our responsibility to seek change, here at home and across the country, in a peaceful way. At a City level, we’re working to turn our words into actions through partnerships and training.

I’m proud of our city’s diversity and inclusion. We ALL belong in Naperville, and we all deserve a safe, welcoming community. I mourn for George Floyd and his family, and I join the many voices here and across our country calling for lasting change. Now is the time to come together; listen to the experiences of so many that have gone on for far too long; and take peaceful, lasting steps towards transformation, justice, and kindness.

We all belong.”

June 1st statement:

“This afternoon I attended the peaceful protest that took place throughout downtown Naperville and ended at the Public Safety campus. The event was a positive example of how our residents can make their voices heard and exercise their right to assemble to bring about change. I share their enthusiasm for social justice and want to take their energy and channel it into positive solutions and policies for lasting change.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: we have a lot of work to do. We’ve started down the right path with updating our City’s mission statement to reflect our commitment to a diverse and inclusive community, and we’re putting actions behind those words with our upcoming creation of a Human Rights Commission, implicit bias training for all City employees, and partnering with community organizations also doing this necessary work in Naperville. And I heard other suggestions today from attendees, like a youth and diversity task force, that are all ideas to potentially consider.

Thank you to all who attended for maintaining a peaceful and respectful event and thank you to the Naperville Police Department for your continued professionalism and commitment to maintaining our community’s safety.”

June 2nd statement:

“As a lifelong resident of this City, what happened last night in our downtown was devastating.

Heartbreaking.

Violence, looting, and destruction of property is NEVER the answer. Change doesn’t come when you break glass and instigate riots, change comes when you work together peacefully to eradicate injustice. Yesterday afternoon’s peaceful protests and message of justice were completely overshadowed by violent destruction and opportunists inciting civil unrest.

This helps no one and solves nothing. Our businesses were already suffering due to COVID-19. Now they must deal with the aftermath of these unlawful acts, which will only make economic recovery that much harder.

It’s unfathomable. But it’s not insurmountable.

This morning we move forward. Because we as a community are better than the thievery and mayhem of last night.

My prayers are with our Naperville police officer who was injured after an instigator set off an explosive device. Our police department’s response was of the highest caliber professionalism and meant to preserve immediate life safety for our residents, and numerous arrests were made. My thanks to Police Chief Bob Marshall, the Naperville Police Department, and the many law enforcement agencies who rendered aid to our community in its hour of need.

My hope is in the volunteers who are downtown right now cleaning up. Thank you to the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce and Naper Pride, who mobilized volunteers overnight. Thank you to the business owners cleaning up this morning, ready to re-invest in themselves and our city. We stand by you. And thank you to the many residents who came out at sunrise to reclaim their community.

The people who did this do not care about Naperville. They do not care about justice and peaceful reform or the conversation happening in our country right now.

But we do. So now we begin the process of cleaning up and moving through this time in our community and country together. We are Naperville.”

To that I want to add: property is never more important than people. Broken windows and stolen goods can be replaced. People cannot.

June 4th statement:

“As national dialogue continues over the death of George Floyd, I’ve received several emails asking about what our Police Department has done to prevent similar outcomes in our community.

Our Police Department took proactive action in recent years to review and appropriately update its use of force policy and created a system through which all uses of force are thoroughly reviewed. The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) reviewed this policy, as well as our department’s compliance with it, during our reaccreditation process late last year. Following their assessment, we were granted our 9th consecutive national accreditation status in March. In fact, our model of policing is the gold standard for law enforcement across the country.

During former President Obama’s administration, we also proudly adopted “The President’s Task Force Report on 21st Century Policing” and have been guided by its six principles over the past five years: building trust and legitimacy, policy and oversight, technology and social media, community policing and crime reduction, training and education and officer wellness and safety.

The department’s adoption of 10 shared principles developed in conjunction with the NAACP and ongoing training in the areas of de-escalation, implicit and explicit bias, hate crime investigation and crisis intervention are concrete examples of this commitment. So are the department’s recent efforts to facilitate open, two-way communication with all of Naperville’s residents through ongoing outreach to minority and special interest groups.

I’m aware of the many recent calls for further action, like the #8CantWait campaign and My Brother’s Keeper Alliance’s pledge for Mayors to address use of force policies. Our police are reviewing these campaigns to see what they consist of and how they may, in fact, already align with our policies. And I anticipate bringing this topic to a future City Council meeting to gather consensus on our City’s participation, along with the topic of a Youth Commission, which was brought up earlier this week as part of ongoing dialogue.

Real change through policy and discussion IS possible. We’re already doing it, as you can see. And as I’ve mentioned many times, we still have work to do. The act of governing is an exercise in compromise with a goal of doing what is right, just, and for the benefit of all. It takes input from everyone and an understanding that all sides need to push and pull and compromise a little to get the best end result. That takes time, but it’s time well spent. And it’s what I’m committed to.”

I really appreciate that the mayor highlights actions already being taken and others being considered. That encourages me to think these aren’t just empty words, but important statements being brought to life in search of bending that moral arc of the universe a bit more toward justice.

One thought on “They are Leading

  1. Pingback: Black Lives Matter – All That I Can't Leave Unsaid

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