Letter to Durham City Council, December 18, 2014

Dear Council,

I’m writing to add my support to Laura Friederich’s letter of earlier this morning, which I assume you’re already in receipt of. If not, it’s also posted here: https://www.facebook.com/laura.friederich/posts/828265822088
Laura touches on many excellent points in her letter, and she is entirely correct when she redirects your attention to the fact that these protests are about calling attention to the racist foundations of our current society.
The police, and particularly Chief Lopez, seem to want to make this issue about themselves. They seem to feel like they’re under personal attack – and perhaps they carry some level of institutional guilt that encourages that impression.
But the majority of the protesters I have seen and engaged with are concerned about much bigger issues than policing in Durham. They are truly trying to send the message that Black Lives Matter, all over the US, and all over the world. Unbalanced policing and unexamined racial biases on the part of police departments are certainly a big part of this, but it cuts much deeper than that.
I’m sure there are legitimate questions about why so many of the recent protests have happened in Durham, and not other cities in the Triangle. I’m curious about that myself – not in the sense of asking why Durham, but rather in the sense of asking why not Raleigh, and Chapel Hill, and Cary, and everywhere else as well.
I think it says *wonderful* things about Durham that our citizenry are the most politically active, the most impassioned, the most likely to speak up when they see injustice, whether here at home or elsewhere in the world. I think it’s wonderful when our locally-led protests are joined by citizens of other towns, where apparently the population at large aren’t nearly as engaged or impassioned.
Laura makes an excellent point when she says that the police have shown at various times that they are capable of restraint, and of respecting the rights of the people to assemble and to let their voices be heard. Durham could set a shining example to the rest of North Carolina as a place where citizen engagement is valued and fostered and encouraged. 
But it will require your leadership –  not just from the few of you who have spoken out publicly already, but from each and every one of you. I encourage you to speak up, as Steve Schewel already has, in favor of free speech, in favor of Durham’s activist history, in favor of the rights of the citizens to be passionate, and politically engaged, and yes, sometimes angry.
Warmest regards,
Ross Grady

Letter to Durham City Council, December 18, 2014

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