Crisis can bring a community together or tear it asunder. Faced with the unknown, we can be paralyzed by hopelessness or aimlessly strike out without purpose. Last Friday, hundreds of Maderans of every stripe stood up and stepped up, joining in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, to protest the 400 years of systemic and structural racism that has and continues to scar the American psyche.
Indeed, it was Madera’s finest moment. The fact that both events were African American youth-led, first and foremost, and the overwhelming number of parents who brought their young children made them especially memorable. Together, they lifted up their voices and made a powerful statement that our social compact is fractured: Our democracy is neither democratic nor representative; our votes don’t count; the system is stacked against us; our institutions are irresponsive; we are separated, polarized and divided.
We are currently faced with an outsize trifecta comprising of an economic meltdown, pandemic and civil unrest that will threaten our personal values and test our resolve. The choice we make can define or destroy us. The senseless killing of George Floyd has fueled a sense of urgency, new receptivity and renewed energy to reinvent a more diverse democracy — one based on common values, genuine opportunity for empowerment, civil society that links us to responsive governance, institutions organized across our differences, communities that connect us together and cultivate commitment to one another.
The time is at hand when ordinary people come together to look future in the eye and collectively bring vision to light to achieve the extraordinary. We can’t afford to bask in the afterglow of the protest march and rally. We need purposeful action on multiple levels. We got this! This moment provides that great opportunity; there’s great hunger for change; people see beyond the limits of themselves; they are full of ideas; full of brilliance and there’s no stopping of their “can-do” attitude.
As we move forward on the pathway to implementation of racial justice, focusing on over-policing would be an apt start. This is not an attempt at piling on but an invitation to law enforcement to join the community circle to re-examine traditional policing and reimagine safety and security.
It cannot be denied that Sheriff Varney and Chief Lawson have been breaths of fresh air. Nonetheless, when thinking of the most desirable places to live in the Valley, state and country, cities where there is rarely a hint of law enforcement immediately come to mind. Maderans are accustomed to seeing four patrol cars and a motorcycle police officer descend on a fender-bender accident. Likewise, seeing police officers on our school campuses sends a message other than academic learning.
Many knew of the kidnapping and killing of the 16-year-old girl in 2019. What they didn’t know was there were three unrelated incidents of teen girls gone missing around the same time. None of the parents went to the police. It was learned that the immigrant community has neither trust nor confidence in law enforcement helping them.
Approximately three years ago, this author witnessed a police officer stopping an African American male. He was handcuffed and made to sit on the curb. When queried, the officer explained matter-of-factly that it was done for the “gentleman’s own safety.” The latter was stopped because the officer was seeking a suspect in the vicinity and wanted to know whether he saw the individual.
If this is how the police treats a law-abiding citizen when asking for his assistance, there’s work to be done. If mistakes have been made, admit them, own them, learn from them, make things right and move on. This is a brave new world. If we approach our task at hand with purpose, passion, integrity, compassion, persistence, good will, openness and honesty, we will emerge as a better, stronger and more resilient community.
Reminder: We need every household to answer the Census 2020 questionnaire. Everyone counts and each one counted translates to $2,000 in federal funding each year. So far, only 55 percent have self-responded. Help us help ourselves.
— Baldwin S. Moy,