The recent killings of five police officers in Dallas, ostensibly in response to the earlier police shootings of two black men in Louisiana and Minnesota, have once again reignited our nation’s ongoing conversation about the strained relationship between the black community and police.
Regrettably, this growing tension, distrust and hostility are becoming more and more commonplace. It should give us pause as we decide whether we, united as Americans, are going to stand up and take action to ensure that we remain steadfast in progressing toward healthier race relations.
In Florida and throughout this great land, each of us must remain vigilant in our commitment to ensure that all people are treated fairly and equally, especially by those who are called upon to enforce the law. The vision of the Florida Commission on Human Relations is to serve as the foremost resource on human relations for the state of Florida.
Every American has the innate right to be treated fairly in encounters with law enforcement officers. Unfortunately, young black people find themselves enduring the advice from their parents about being careful around police because of the color of their skin.
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Last fall, a poll by CNN and the Kaiser Family Foundation found that one out of five – or 20% -- African Americans said they were treated unfairly because of their race in dealings with the police in the 30 days before the poll was taken. By comparison, only three percent of whites said they’d been treated unfairly.
Public safety is a shared responsibility for all people to live and thrive in a community without fear, intimidation, or threat. So, what are we to do?
As the foremost resource on human relations for the state of Florida, the Florida Commission on Human Relations recognizes that the fear of our differences must never allow us to be divided. We call upon all Floridians to look for ways to build up race relations in our communities, not drive them down. No matter who we are or what we do, each of us brings something of value to the table. We must tackle our fears and prejudices.
Let us always remember the immortal words of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., who said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” If we remain silent and this growing racial violence is not acted upon now, and steps taken to ease the tension, we will leave a generation of wounds that will not be easily healed.
Dr. Donna Elam, Commissioner
Michelle Wilson, Executive Director
Florida Commission on Human Relations