Remarks to Council, 8/18/15

I wrote you all a month ago, to object to the escalation of the city’s legal assault on Anthony Morgan. None of you has responded.

Maybe you’re adhering to Section 46-74 of the City Charter, which states:

No city councilmember, city officer or employee of the city shall interfere with the ordinary course of law enforcement within the city …

What about interfering with the biased course of law enforcement in the city?

Which has me thinking about the idea of silence—especially white silence: how to interpret and analyze it.

To someone seeking response, our silence conveys some sort of refusal. But what if our interlocutor has been abused? What if he was taken from an event convened to honor and mourn nine Black murdered churchgoers? What does your silence mean when the YPD held him in a cell all night—a cell in a city where white creatives and academics thrive, the “buy local” movement seems to flourish, bees are protected, and there are nonprofits whose mission is to ameliorate the material circumstances of the hood?

What does it mean that you officially represent this proud, diverse village, but have nothing to say when leaders of a love-based movement get harassed and taken off the street for crying out when more Black life is lost to racist gunfire?

Does silence mean that turning our heads away is all we can manage?

Is it a silence of disapproval? Does it mean the Black Lives Matter movement doesn’t matter here because our cops are good and don’t profile? Or is it a silence of shame—that we developed no new policy after David Ware was shot in the back after “reaching into his waistband” for a weapon he didn’t have?

Or is it a defiant silence? Does it take issue with the idea of activists who don’t believe community transformation originates in voting booths and police stations and business schools?

Is silence a byproduct of the contract between law enforcement and the class of people it protects and serves—a contract which stipulates that I will look the other way so long as you keep my city “safe”? Does this official silence reinforce advantageous social positions?

How can we motivate the silent—especially silent whites—to speak out? If a city employee responds to a social justice leader’s bravery by ramping up rather than dismissing charges, I believe a silent council, mayor, and manager have already communicated their approval. This may be called complicity.

Quiet councils are like unmarked police vehicles: they refuse to express their intentions.

A proactive council, by contrast, could find a way to support the protection—rather than prosecution—of Black lives.

—Jeff Clark

6 comments

    • alanhaber

      beautiful.
      you challenge the Mayor and Council to think about themselves: What does silence mean? and from self-reflective thought, change is possible.

  1. Pingback: Remarks to Council, Dec. 15, 2015 | Keep Ypsi Black
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