Racial & Restorative Justice Requires Discomfort

MACOMB, ILLINOIS – Nearly two months after a group of white business owners publicly displayed and/or distributed signs which were condemned by the black community and allies as racist, we appreciate that Mayor Mike Inman has officially spoken on the issue in a recent op-ed to the Voice.

Well, almost.

It would be hard for anyone who has not been closely following the events in Macomb surrounding the signs to understand the context of the Mayor’s letter or what may have caused this sudden concern for “race relations and inclusivity”, as he writes. The mayor calls for “healing,” “dialogue,” and “making amends.” An uninformed reader might ask, “about what?”

Nowhere in the article does he mention the direct cause the current tensions: namely, these business owners publicly shaming one of the most prominent black figures in Macomb.

The vagueness of the letter tries to soften some hard truths. There hasn’t been an organic “coming together of individuals” – there have been selective conversations. It’s important to build an inclusive community, but “all individuals” were not targeted by the signs – a black man was. Making amends behind closed doors “without shame or blame” is a weak substitute for addressing a racial injustice that took place very publicly.

Many black people in Macomb have already made their voices heard as individuals and through allied organizations. They shouldn’t be expected to sit through a session and explain to these wealthy white people why the signs were racist. Neither should we pretend racist “feelings and beliefs” have equal legitimacy to the real trauma and fears expressed by the black community.

While it’s a start to provide a safe, non-challenging space to help white people learn the basics of how not to be racist, diversity training isn’t enough. Restorative justice for harm done to our black community, even if the harm was inflicted unintentionally, is needed. That means strengthening public institutions in our community, like the Equal Opportunity and Fair Housing Commission, that are tasked with addressing issues of racism and discrimination and providing concrete solutions.

We live in a time of explicit and violent racism from the Presidency on down. There can be no “tolerable” level of racism in a healthy, vibrant community. There is explicit racism, there is anti-racism, and what is in between is the “tolerable” racism which white people can choose to ignore. That space is white privilege.

To act publicly in a racist manner and then have one’s white elected officials offer private, gentle, protected, optional penance as ‘coming together’—with no accountability or acknowledgement of harm done—epitomizes white privilege.

Restorative justice would be the Mayor explicitly condemning the signs as racist, and those business owners issuing a public apology for harm done, then taking explicit, transparent actions to hire, employ, and welcome black people as employees, customers, and clientele.

Signed,
The Democratic Women of McDonough County

The Democratic Women of McDonough County is a 501(c)4 non-profit organization focusing on increasing the participation of women in all levels of politics.

OpEd: Democratic Women of McDonough County respond to meme of Congresswomen posted by Illinois Republican County Chair’s Association

MACOMB – The Democratic Women of McDonough County, Illinois, wishes to respond to the racist propaganda meme recently posted on the Illinois Republican County Chairs’ Association’s Facebook page that targeted four female Congressional Representatives.

The incendiary image, posted on Friday, July 19, mischaracterizes the women as Muslim terrorists, positioning them as hostile foreign actors and making it seem acceptable, through their example, for the Republican Party base to further degrade, harass, and threaten them.

“The Illinois GOP’s use of violent propaganda perpetuates the dehumanization of these elected citizens of the United States,” stated Regina Matthews, Chairwoman of the Democratic Women’s Racial Justice Coalition. “This rhetoric must stop.”

“Here, in McDonough County, we have two requests of the McDonough County Republican Party: publicly condemn the racist and xenophobic images and rhetoric shared by their state party, and pledge to distance themselves from the racist and divisive rhetoric from Mr. Trump,” said Heather McMeekan, President of the Democratic Women of McDonough County. “We urge the leaders from the McDonough County Republican Party to contact our local news media to issue a statement, or to contact me directly by emailing me at hmcmeekan@gmail.com.”

We stand in agreement with the Illinois Democratic County Chairs’ Association, which has encouraged Illinois Republican Party leaders and organizations to distance themselves from the image, to stand in solidarity with the Illinois Democratic Chairs’ Association call for every Republican County Chair to denounce the image, and to condemn its dissemination by the Republican Party. We also call on the Illinois Republican Party to investigate the source or agent(s) who posted the image and hold them accountable.

The Democratic Women of McDonough County also call on our U.S. Congressman Darin LaHood (R-IL18) to publicly condemn both the meme and Mr. Trump’s racist messaging and tweets. Tacit endorsement or ignoring of harmful behavior normalizes and perpetuates it. His refusal to condemn these racist attacks by his own party leadership is unacceptable and unbefitting a U.S. Representative of the great State of Illinois.

“It is wrong. It is extreme. It is untrue. The image echoes and amplifies the racist tweets President Trump made about four Democratic Congresswomen,” wrote the Illinois Democratic County Chairs’ Association on their Facebook page.

The Democratic Women of McDonough Co. has informed our Facebook followers and personal friends of the meme, sharing it cautiously with explanation as to it’s inappropriate and harmful messaging to help educate and inform viewers, and in keeping with our mission to be allies to women and all underrepresented people.

Regardless of political party, we should all agree that the creation and posting of such images is not acceptable political discourse. The image depicting these women with hateful, racist and xenophobic stereotypes is morally indefensible, and it puts them at risk of being targeted for violence. The Illinois GOP’s Chairmen’s Association should be condemned for their part in degrading our democracy and promoting hatred.

Signed,
The Democratic Women of McDonough County
McDonough Co, IL

The Democratic Women of McDonough County is a 501(c)4 non-profit organization focusing on increasing the participation of women and girls in all levels of politics and public policymaking at the local, state, and federal level.

#AllyshipFirst #NoRacism #NoKKK #BlackLivesMatter #Resist #FlipIL93#IL18isWatching #Mac185 #NoWhiteNationism #UniteBlue #JusticeDemocrats #GoodTrouble

https://www.mcdonoughvoice.com/opinion/20190729/democratic-women-of-mcdonough-county-respond-to-meme-of-congresswomen-posted-by-illinois-republican-county-chairs-association

Diaper, pad, and tampon drive being held throughout July

MACOMB — Throughout the month of July, the Women’s Health Task Force of the Democratic Women of McDonough County is holding their Dignity Drive for women and children in McDonough County. Donations of diapers, tampons, pads, and other feminine hygiene products can be dropped off at participating businesses during normal business hours until August 1.

Participating businesses include the following: Burton’s Law Office at 212 W. Carroll St., Dad’s Garage at 539 N. Lafayette St., and Your CBD Store at 833 N. Lafayette St. Suite 1.

All donations will be given to Loaves & Fishes, etc. Food Pantry, Western Illinois Regional Council, Samaritan Well Women’s Shelter, and local schools.

“We think this project is really important. It is wonderful to show up for people who don’t necessarily have somebody helping them. It’s truly an honor,” said Heather McMeekan, president of Democratic Women of McDonough County. “We’re very excited about this and the community response so far. We’ve had so many people offer to help. We couldn’t ask for a better response.”

McMeekan said that the drive did well its first week. According to Karen Lovell of Dad’s Garage, one generous donor even dropped off a carload of diapers at their location. According to a 2019 study published in the journal “Obstetrics & Gynecology,” nearly two-thirds of the low-income women surveyed were unable to afford feminine hygiene products and nearly half of these women reported being unable to afford both food and feminine hygiene products within the past year.

“Diapers and period supplies are basic sanitary necessities which are not covered by assistance programs,” said McMeekan in a press release. “Most charity organizations do not provide diapers, pads, and tampons which leaves many forced into using soiled supplies longer than is healthy, using alternatives that may put them at risk of health issues, or going without entirely.

***Public Statement RE: Calls for removal of our local university President***

As members of the Democratic Women of McDonough County, our allyship on this issue is with our members, colleagues, friends, and family members in the black community here.

We used appropriate tactics directed at those with the power in Springfield to hold accountable ALL those in local university leadership responsible for our university’s problems, not just one person.

Our petition, public events, trips to lobby in Springfield, letters, emails, and phone calls properly called for ALL new leadership on the BOT. We have also repeatedly, openly called for replacing ALL those who violated the Open Meetings Act while in leadership roles at our local university.

We also called for ALL of those responsible for harming the institution, its people, programs, reputation, and community to be placed under new leadership, with a new BOT. And it worked. We have a new BOT.

That was the right way to do things.

The tactics being employed now in this community by “suddenly angry” (but previously silent) white people against a black man are racist.

Because our previous work using the appropriate, responsible processes and tactics are already yielding the desired result, new oversight, this issue isn’t at all whether or not the target of their sudden anger deserves to stay or go.

Indeed, many of us concerned about the current situation were harmed as well by the failures of many of the responsible University administrators, community leaders, and our State Senator and State Representative. They remained silent and complicit as all the cuts were made, year after year.

Our State Rep and Senator never put forth legislation to get our local institution supplemental funds, for YEARS. Yet there are no signs saying “Fire Norine” or “Fire Jil”, even though the need for funding will still be there and remain unmet because they STILL refuse to do their jobs as our legislators.

Similarly, we do not stand with ANY member of the previous BOT nor the previous higher administration, most of whom were allowed to move on with no consequences for their destructive decisions.

Of those who remain from the previous administration, this recent wave of attacks has only targeted the black person instead of all those responsible. THAT is what makes this blatantly racist. There’s still another white V.P., for example, who was caught violating the Open Meetings Act and subsequently directed the destruction of evidence.

Our issue is with the timing, the targeting, and the tactics being employed suddenly in the past month by white people that single out ONLY the black person involved, but not all the white people who are ALSO responsible. That makes these tactics racist, whether or not they meant it that way.

What else could possibly be motivating those who never bothered to speak up against anyone else as hundreds of members of our community were losing their jobs, their homes, their financial stability, their benefits, their healthcare?

This is why this situation is traumatizing for members of our black community who have also been harmed by the actions, complicity, or inaction of many of these people. If the tactics are racist, it doesn’t matter the intent. Racist tactics, no matter how we feel about the target, are always wrong.

We are all rightly frustrated by the situation at our local university. But those who jump on this bandwagon led by people who have never before spoken up only validate their racist tactics.

End the racist tactics harming our community and our reputation.

Let the BOT do their job.

Public Statement RE: “Fire —-” Signs

***Public Statement RE: Disrespectful, public signs seeking to humiliate a local black university administrator***

As members of the Democratic Women of McDonough County, our allyship on this issue is with our members, colleagues, friends, and family members in the black community here.

We used appropriate tactics directed at those with the power in Springfield to hold accountable ALL those in local university leadership responsible for our university’s problems, not just one person.

Our petition, public events, trips to lobby in Springfield, letters, emails, and phone calls properly called for ALL new leadership on the BOT. We have also repeatedly, openly called for replacing ALL those who violated the Open Meetings Act while in leadership roles at our local university.

We also called for ALL of those responsible for harming the institution, its people, programs, reputation, and community to be placed under new leadership, with a new BOT. And it worked. We have a new BOT.

That was the right way to do things.

The tactics being employed now in this community by “suddenly angry” (but previously silent) white people against a black man are racist.

Because our previous work using the appropriate, responsible processes and tactics are already yielding the desired result, new oversight, this issue isn’t at all whether or not the target of their sudden anger deserves to stay or go.

Indeed, many of us concerned about the current situation were harmed as well by the failures of many of the responsible University administrators, community leaders, and our State Senator and State Representative. They remained silent and complicit as all the cuts were made, year after year.

Our State Rep and Senator never put forth legislation to get our local institution supplemental funds, for YEARS. Yet there are no signs saying “Fire Norine” or “Fire Jil”, even though the need for funding will still be there and remain unmet because they STILL refuse to do their jobs as our legislators.

Similarly, we do not stand with ANY member of the previous BOT nor the previous higher administration, most of whom were allowed to move on with no consequences for their destructive decisions.

Of those who remain from the previous administration, this recent wave of attacks has only targeted the black person instead of all those responsible. THAT is what makes this blatantly racist. There’s still another white V.P., for example, who was caught violating the Open Meetings Act and subsequently directed the destruction of evidence.

Our issue is with the timing, the targeting, and the tactics being employed suddenly in the past month by white people that single out ONLY the black person involved, but not all the white people who are ALSO responsible. That makes these tactics racist, whether or not they meant it that way.

What else could possibly be motivating those who never bothered to speak up against anyone else as hundreds of members of our community were losing their jobs, their homes, their financial stability, their benefits, their healthcare?

This is why this situation is traumatizing for members of our black community who have also been harmed by the actions, complicity, or inaction of many of these people. If the tactics are racist, it doesn’t matter the intent. Racist tactics, no matter how we feel about the target, are always wrong.

We are all rightly frustrated by the situation at our local university. But those who jump on this bandwagon led by people who have never before spoken up only validate their racist tactics.

End the racist tactics harming our community and our reputation.

Let the BOT do their job.

We’re Bringing Macomb’s First Pride Event to the Downtown…

The FIRST ever PRIDEFEST in Macomb is bringing together wonderful human beings to celebrate our LGBTQ*A friends, family members, allies, supporters, visitors, and students in and around the Macomb, Illinois community. We were honored and blessed to partner with so many wonderful allies and groups to host this event that we might visibly proclaim our love for and affirm the dignity and humanity of all member of the GLBTQIA family.

We seek to provide a safe space for all attendees to enjoy the freedoms all should enjoy with gender expression/gender identity until such time that every space is made safe and validating for all members of our community.

We proudly welcome McDonough County Clergy members in attendance, knowing far too many members of their churches are living in hiding from their flocks and other members due to risk of bullying, marginalization, and expulsion from their churches. We have allied with those who are working to try to confront such misguided congregations in our county.

We pledge our support and allyship to that end, that all may live, work, play, and visit here, free from being targeted by those individuals who have yet to address their own issues. Those who project homophobia, transphobia, and ignorance onto others in our county will be confronted and held accountable with real-world consequences.

We will no longer silently tolerate ignorance which contributes to a toxic culture which puts members of the LGBTQIA at risk. #NOH8#LoveWins#MakeItMacomb