Black women matter

FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - June 16, 2020 - 12:00am

The killing of George Floyd has sparked fiery global reaction with protesters against racism and police brutality marching in ‘’Black Lives Matter” demonstrations in the streets not only in Minneapolis, where Floyd was killed, but also in cities in many countries. The protesters had come from all over the United States, even as others staged rallies in their own places. The killing of another African American, Rayshard Brooks, in Atlanta a couple of days ago by police officers further inflamed raw emotions. Already, the air is virulent with charges of systemic racism in the American police system, and the demand for defunding or totally abolishing police forces.

CNN’s one-hour Townhall conversation about matters on race and COVID-19 presented four African American female mayors Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta, Muriel Bowser of Washington, London Breed of San Francisco, and Lori Lightfoot of Chicago. The four, interviewed by CNN’s senior reporter Laura Coates are described by Associated Press as “being praised as thoughtful leaders at a time of political tumult and high-profile examples of black women seeking and winning political office across the country.”

The four had similar views about the challenges they face as black women leaders, challenges that propel them to be “smarter” (Browser) and do their best for their constituents. Bottoms echoed this with people looking for them to lead, to balance family life with their leadership role. Breed talked of funding for the police to be carefully and equitably used for the needs of residents – for education and health and social services, for senior residents and children. Lightfoot stressed the need to feel the pain of families of victims of police brutality. She said, “We’ve got to cure the systemic racism (issue, of being treated according to the color of one’s skin).” The four unanimously rooted for reforms in the police system that ensures equal treatment of people regardless of skin color.

The killing of Brooks took place in Atlanta, whose mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, captured the nation’s attention when she addressed the civil unrest occurring in her city after Floyd’s death. AP quoted her as saying, “I am a mother to four black children in America, one of whom is 18 years old. When I saw the murder of George Floyd, I hurt like a mother.”

Bottoms acted swiftly two days after the killing of Floyd, firing two police officers and placing three others on desk duty over the excessive use of force during a protest arrest involving two college students.

She told reporters, “Use of excessive force is never acceptable.”

Washington Mayor Bowser, on the other hand, had made headlines when she had local artists and city crew workers paint in huge yellow letters in a piece of tarmac in central Washington DC that stretched two full blocks, the words “Black Lives Matter.” This is the street where protesters were brutally dispersed by teargas so it could be cleared for President Donald Trump to have a photo op in front of a church. This compelled Bowser to name the street Black Lives Matter.

Bowser has positioned herself as a high-profile opponent of President Trump. “We want to call attention today to making sure our nation is more fair and more just, and that black lives and that black humanity matter in our nation,” she told NBC Washington.

Another city chief executive who has made an impact in her turf is Mayor Lovely Warren of Rochester, New York, who is in her second term as the first black female mayor of the state’s third largest city. She told reporter Lauren Aratani that “While black women have made strides in gaining prominence, they still face unique challenges of racism and stereotypes. We’re trying to fight a system that was institutionally built to create the disparities that it has created over generations and so we’re trying to undo the damage that has been done to prepare our children for the future.”

“A lot of times we get branded with the ‘angry black woman syndrome’ when we’re speaking up to a number of different issues that impact our community, but we have been built to take on the responsibility and we take it in stride.”

Organizations such as Higher Heights for America PAC, a political action committee dedicated to electing more progressive black women, told AP that there are seven black women serving as mayors in the nation’s 100 most populous US cities, compared to just one in 2014.

“Black women have always been leading and we have been the defenders of our homes, our communities and our nation,” said Glynda Carr, president and CEO of Higher Heights.

“Our leadership was built for this moment and their unique experiences as black women, not only as Americans, has provided the type of trusted leadership that can help move this country forward.

Mayor Lightfoot, a guest on CNN’s Town Hall, and Chicago’s first black female mayor and first openly gay leader, frankly acknowledged “America’s dark history of racism and blasted President Trump’s divisive tweets in which he called protesters “thugs” and said, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

“It’s impossible for me as a black woman who has been the target of blatant racism over the course of my life not to take the killing of George Floyd personally,” Lightfoot said. “Being black in America should not be a death sentence.”

No black woman has ever served as governor in the country, Carr said. Black women make up 7.6 percent of the country’s population yet account for just 4.3 percent of all members of the House and one percent of the Senate.

The black women mayors interviewed on CNN said they will continue the fight for reforms that bode well for all the citizens of the United States, they be men, women, white or blacks.

But the priority call, according to well-placed political analysts, is for choosing members of police forces who have a clear understanding of their role to protect everyone they are supposed to protect.

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Email: dominitorrevillas@gmail.com

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