RJC OpEd: Empty Rhetoric

Empty Rhetoric is an opinion editorial penned by the Racial Justice Coaltion of the Democratic Women of McDonough County.

The Racial Justice Coalition of the Democratic Women of McDonough County wishes to respond to the all-male statement issued on May 29th, 2020.

The murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police has sparked the latest round of protests against police violence and structural racism in the US. The quick spread of the protest movement to all 50 states, and even small municipalities like Macomb, has forced city governments to respond.

Unfortunately, those of us with white privilege have too often accepted promises, pandering, and photo ops as progress. A joint statement by the male leaders of the City of Macomb, McDonough County, WIU, their respective police departments, and others was published on May 29, rightfully expressing horror at the murder of George Floyd and the responsibility of community leaders to speak up about injustice.

Some of the same men signing this letter are themselves under investigation for alleged civil and human rights violations against People of Color right here in our community. Verbal and written statements with generalities, but bereft of concrete policy changes or vigorous enforcement do not represent sufficient progress. City and county leadership has repeatedly failed to address the systemic issue of racial implicit bias, in spite of decades of requests for remedy. This is unacceptable.

This type of change – structural, material, real – is exactly what we have been demanding in our year and a half of operation as a group. We have received DOZENS of credible allegations of racial bias, bigotry, and violence against People of Color here. These include incidents of excessive force, over-policing, broken-windows policing, assault, failure to protect, and denial of appropriate medical evaluation and care.

We may be a “small community”, but “what happens in our nation” is also happening right here, and those who have refused to even consider the evidence we have presented in affidavits before dismissing their complaints are further silencing these victim’s voices.

We reiterate the remedies for racial injustice we have been fighting for in the past year, as yet insufficiently addressed. These include that Mayor Inman and Chief Barker step down or be removed, that police be required to use activated body cameras on calls, that the Equal Opportunity and Fair Housing Commission be restored to its original scope and purpose, and that the Macomb Police Department be investigated for retaliation against People of Color who have brought forth complaints.

Demands for racial justice cannot be ignored by Macomb and McDonough County’s elected officials any longer. The evidence and affidavits we gathered are now in the hands of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office. We are grateful the IL AG has opened up a satellite office for community members to seek direct aid from them regarding discrimination, bigotry, and marginalization.

We must never again accept flowery words as a substitute for material change. We demand real justice to actually address the structural causes of racial injustice which degrades and dehumanizes our People of Color in our community who are still – STILL – waiting for equality of opportunity, justice, and support in our community.

Racial Justice Coalition of Democratic Women of McDonough County

Chairs: Mariyah Bennett, Regina Matthews, Candace Whitman

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