By Federal Glover, District 5 County Supervisor
Over the past week, our nation, barely beginning to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, has been thrown into upheaval following the death of George Floyd. In an era where cell phones can quickly capture events and send them virally, Americans were soon playing and replaying with distress and disgust the video of Floyd dying on the street, his life snuffed out by one who had sworn to protect and defend.
The days following his death have brought about a resurgence of bitterness, anger, desperation and demands for justice that is not new to communities of color. Thousands across the United States are locking arms in solidarity and marching to seek justice for Floyd, but also to bring an end to the disparities that have left many young African-Americans dead at the hands of law enforcement.
As the only African American who has served on the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors, I want to be crystal clear in saying I oppose violence. Violence begets more violence. I understand why some would feel they have no recourse but to resort to violence, but I unequivocally reject the idea that violence is the solution. Additionally, the opportunists who have co-opted legitimate protests and used the painful circumstances of Floyd’s death as an excuse for looting, theft and arson, should be held accountable for what they’ve done.
Even as we reject violence and the horrifying tactics of those opportunists, we cannot go back to the status quo. We cannot assume that once people have expressed themselves, they will simply go back to their communities and be ready to accept the practices that triggered this crisis. If for a moment we think that silencing legitimate protesters and ignoring the tragic circumstances that led to George Floyd’s death will restore a sense of balance, we are sadly mistaken.
The protests have drawn individuals with opposing goals. There are those who want America to understand their pain and fix the circumstances that lead to practices that victimize people of color. But there are also those who are anarchists, seeking every opportunity to fan the flames of discontent and destabilize communities for their own selfish gain. What is certainly noteworthy is that the faces of legitimate protestors are as diverse as America itself. People of all races, ethnicities and ages have come together to be heard and to demand that equality become the new norm.
As a county supervisor, I’ve spent the past 20 years assessing difficult situations and making critical decisions. I have never shied away from the hard conversations even when the most vociferous have disagreed with me. I bring to the conversation the reality that I am African American. My wife, my children and my grandchildren are African American. And, now, many of my constituents have called upon me to start the conversation about race, not only as an elected official, but as a person of color.
Good people across our nation have risen in solidarity with communities of color to say, “we cannot accept things as they are.” While many have never had the experience with law enforcement that persons of color have, they understand that if one part of our community is broken, then the entire community is broken. We are, after all, our brothers’ keepers. I call upon all Bay Area residents to be their brothers’ keepers. Reject discrimination. Demand equal treatment. Oppose prejudice. We are bigger and better than these things.
It is time we begin listening to each other, communicating with and understanding each other. Honest dialog must begin today.
Contra Costa County Supervisor Federal Glover of Pittsburg is the only African American to serve on the Board of Supervisors.