Saturday, June 6, 2015

Justice and Fairness in Nashville

When I heard Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson speak earlier this year, I complimented him on how his police force handled Nashville’s first Ferguson protest last year.

When attending that evening event, I talked to an officer as a group of protesters began moving toward the interstate. All of the sudden, a media representative frantically ran up to this officer asking these questions: “What is happening and how are the police handling this? Any violence so far?” The officer calmly and seeming somewhat irritated replied, “These people have the right to speak out about their concerns, they have the right to protest. And, we are helping them do that safely.” I was very impressed with his response and a bit disgusted by the media person’s seeming frustration with his answer.

Fast forward to the present and The Tennessean’s report (June 2, 2015) about plans for Metro Police Headquarters to move to Jefferson Street. I am not sure how that decision was made but the article clearly states that the community has not felt included in the process.

The Justice for Jefferson Street Coalition has filed a civil rights complaint against the mayor’s office and the police department. Police, in general, are accused of racial profiling throughout our nation and data has been collected displaying how dark skinned people are arrested much more often than us white, privileged people.

I can just hear the responses of readers. Some will speak about how black and brown people break the law more than white people do, and how dare I argue that this is not a just system of enforcement? Please read Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2012) to clarify the facts of racial profiling. Ms. Alexander has researched how the United States has not really moved past slavery at all. Slavery is disguised more covertly now, and prison systems house our slaves. Even just reading brief reviews of the book will illustrate this fact.

A friend and one of the Justice for Jefferson Street Coalition members, Sekou Franklin, PhD, describes in the complaint that Metro government has violated the community’s rights by excluding civil rights organizations along with black colleges and universities from discussion about the options and plans for our police department’s move. The project was decided upon rapidly without much community input.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be proud of Nashville’s being the “It” city. Although there will always be disagreements between groups of people and plans for the city, I hope that the government will often seek input from our beloved communities especially when the impact on the community, its youth and families is so clear.

I ask Nashville’s government and its leaders to be fair and honest, and ask openly for community input. Then, we can all be proud of the process, even if we don’t happen to agree with the outcomes. 

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