Op-Ed: It’s time for systemic change and justice

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State Senator Eddie Melton

By Eddie Melton

Currently, America is experiencing two deadly viruses, COVID-19 and racism, and Black Americans are impacted by them both disproportionately.

The state of unrest in our country has come to a head, and we are at a pivotal point in our nation. We must decide now whether this will be a turning point or a breaking point.

Across the nation, we are experiencing an extraordinary amount of pain and outrage ignited by the senseless police killing of George Floyd and countless others.

We are tired of the lack of justice and the failure of our leaders to eradicate the ongoing police brutality, killings and systemic racism at every level in our society. And to be clear, our community has spoken out about ongoing, pervasive oppression and offered real policy changes that continue to be ignored by legislators and other elected officials.

I refuse to allow my title as an elected official to silence me from communicating the frustration, pain and anger that I feel. Over the years I have personally dealt with racial profiling by police and the implicit and explicit racism in society.

For too long, we have fought and marched for change. For too long, we have fought and march- ed for equality. Yet in recent years, we’ve only seen more and more unarmed Black Americans beg unchecked law enforcement officers for their lives and utter their last words on video recordings.

Without justice, there will never be peace.

I want to be clear; I don’t condone looting or violence. What we are seeing erupt across the country is what happens when the historically oppressed become fed up with the violence perpetrated on our community by the police.

Today, justice cannot be delayed. We must demand immediate action to address the systemic racism that is entrenched in every area of our society – from the criminal justice system, to healthcare and our education systems.

So, in the name of justice, the Indiana Legislative Black Caucus urges local and state leaders to take the following steps immediately:

We urge the Governor to immediately issue an executive order banning law enforcement from using chokehold restraints, or other means of restraint which cut off the ability to breathe, as a means of making an arrest. This order must include specific repercussions officers will face for violating this ban and NOT leave disciplinary discretion up to local police departments.

If there is no action by the governor, we urge the mayors, city councils and chiefs of police to immediately establish a local policy that outlaws the use of a chokehold restraint, or other means of restraint which cut off the ability to breathe, as a means of making an arrest by law enforcement in Indiana.

We urge Governor Holcomb to immediately establish a Statewide Criminal Justice Commission, including a diverse appointing of civilians, to examine every aspect of our state’s criminal justice system and recommend comprehensive criminal justice reform including the eradication of racist policing policies. We expect these recommendations to become bills that get passed in the 2021 Legislative Session.

We urge Indiana mayors, city councils and chiefs of police to immediately establish local independent civilian review boards, with members selected by local community activist groups, to review public complaints of police violence.

Time and time again we see injustice that goes unanswered. Our community cries out for help while mourning the lives we continue lose. And time and time again we hear our political leaders say they understand, that they hear us and that they want to help. Yet, no real action has been taken.

Again and again, members of the Indiana Legislative Black Caucus have introduced bills to require bias training for police, address racial profiling and address false calls to police about Black people – every single one has gone unheard or been voted down.

Now is the time for the leaders who say they hear us to show it unequivocally. And to announce that they will be taking action based on these demands – now.

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