NAACP op-ed: 'Now is the time to build bridges, not barriers'

Posted at 7:00 AM, Jul 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-17 10:00:34-04

Robert E. Richardson is president of the Cincinnati NAACP.

In Cincinnati, we are far too familiar with the horror, pain, sadness and anger that accompanies tragedy associated with racial profiling.

Robert Richardson Sr.

I, along with the executive committee of the Cincinnati Branch of the NAACP, are deeply saddened and disturbed by the events involving African American citizens and law enforcement over the past week in Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, Minnesota and Dallas. Our hearts and our communities continue to be distraught from the unjustified deaths of countless African American men and women while in police custody. The families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile now join the family of our own Samuel DuBose in experiencing the inexplicable pain associated with senseless loss and lack of justice.

Now we all mourn, not only the deaths of citizens, but also law enforcement.

Each senseless shooting leaves respective communities in turmoil while the world looks on helplessly and our legislators stand by watching the inhumane treatment of the very people they vowed, and were elected, to protect.

Urgent Change is Needed

Our criminal justice system is in dire need of change – change that curbs the disproportionate mass criminalization of African Americans, immigrants and all people of color. Bills have been introduced in this Congress to attempt to address the outrageous number of police-involved deaths and to curb racial profiling in law enforcement. None of the bills have gotten out of committee. Why not?

The Cincinnati Branch of the NAACP was formed to advocate for fairness and justice. We join with other social justice organizations across the nation in urging our city officials, state legislators, governors, congressmen and senators to pass legislation at all levels to improve training of law enforcement personnel; create local independent review boards; pass common sense gun safety reforms; and implement gun violence prevention measures.

At the federal level, to ensure police accountability, we should ensure that our representatives petition the Justice Department to aggressively prosecute unwarranted police shootings as criminal violations of the victims’ civil rights.

Use Your Voice -- Vote

We also strongly believe that now is the time to build bridges, not barriers. We urge our membership to peacefully advocate for the repair of community and law enforcement trust. We hope that our brothers and sisters in Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, and Dallas will remain calm and keep the lines of communication between citizens and authorities open.

Most importantly, we must remember that we are the change agents to bring forth a new paradigm shift. We must focus on using our power at the ballot box. Our most important march is our march to the polls on Election Day, November 8, to exercise our voice and our right to be heard across the nation by electing candidates who support our concerns and advocate for reforms and policies that promote racial, economic, and social justice for all communities.

It is our prayer that the tragedies that occurred in the past week will not be in vain and will ignite and expedite much needed change in policing policies that disproportionately result in the deaths of African Americans, and gun laws that could prevent another family from losing a cherished member. OUR LIVES MATTER. OUR VOTE COUNTS.