Truth to Power, BLM in Erie, PA
Speak a little truth and one's job is in jeopardy.. Ruffle a few feathers by being in a neighborhood they don’t want you in, and now you should 'consider a location change'. I agree, we need more minorities and black people involved but I’m not going to vilify them for not being more involved, because I understand the dynamics at play. A lot of the people who these issues directly face, have already fallen victim to the system. Since Erie is such an old community with such deeply embedded racist ideals, a lot of black people and minorities have lost hope that anything can change. Restoring that hope in the eyes and hearts of people is going to take more than 2-3 weeks of increased awareness. We have to know what we’re dealing with if we are going to honestly deal with it.
To involve more minorities and BLACK people in local politics, we will not achieve that end through expanded community policing efforts like the Schember administration would have you believe. It comes with more community BUILDING efforts, to bring the PEOPLE together, not the officers and the communities they over-police, intimidate, and brutalize on a regular basis.
The reason you don’t see more black and minority faces isn’t because they don’t care, rather they don’t trust that YOU actually care. They don’t want to open themselves up to increased attack, through the system we’re fighting, in large part because when the cameras get packed up, and when the smoke settles, they have 0 confidence that the community of Erie will actually go to bat for them. They believe that once the trend wears off, they will have put themselves in a worse position, with no one to help. THIS is what we’re dealing with. A divide in our community as a whole.
In this instance I’m talking about the PEOPLE of Erie. The PEOPLE who have demonstrated for so long that Black lives don’t matter, and that the status quo is a good thing. The PEOPLE who have allowed white supremacist ideologies to permeate their workplaces, homes, and immediate communities. The PEOPLE who don’t see an issue with Oliver Hazard Perry and others like him being celebrated for their mass slaughter of the Native Americans in this area. The PEOPLE who refuse to erect statues of our Black civil rights leaders that are a real part of this cities’ history. The PEOPLE who have largely turned a blind eye to the plight and suffering of BLACK/BROWN people since the inception of this city.
To discuss why you don’t see more BLACK faces at these events, we have to be real about the conversation we really have to have. We are battling an atmosphere of white superiority, that permeates the Police Department, OCY, the Erie County Courthouse, our school system, new development projects, as well as housing/employment opportunities. The manner in which many of our businesses, local or otherwise, treat black/brown people is very discriminatory and is not something we, as a community, can allow to persist.
Demonstrating in low income neighborhoods might begin to serve the purpose of letting black and minority communities know that allies are with them, but ultimately, it’s not a situation that 3 weeks of support is going to immediately reverse. Picketing/demonstrating in these neighborhoods, as if these communities are the problem isn’t going to do it, in my opinion. If we want black and minority communities to take an active part in what's going on in the community, we have to build that trust by initiatives that are CLEARLY geared towards community BUILDING in addition to the protests/demonstrations that are taking place right now. We need to create spaces within these neighborhoods to facilitate interaction with people who may not have otherwise had the chance to meet or network with each other. Things like that are going to be what ultimately begins to build trust within our community. We need keep letting our voices be heard, the goal is to make them UNCOMFORTABLE, and initiate REAL, MEASURABLE, CHANGE. Don’t be bullied into a corner. There is power in unity; and that is frightening to agents of the status quo, who would rather protect their back room deals that benefit the few, at the expense of the community as a whole. Peace & Love.