By Kwadjo Campbell,
Chair, Greenville County Democratic Black Caucus
“If an American, because his skin is dark, cannot enjoy the full and free life which all of us want, then who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed and stand in his place? Who among us would then be content with the counsels of patience and delay?” – President John F. Kennedy (June 11, 1963)
For five months, another Black family has mourned the unjust loss of a loved one’s life at the hands of law enforcement officers. For five months, we have mourned with them, and also along with them, waited for clarification of the exact circumstances of Jamal Sutherland’s death while in the custody of law enforcement officers. Today we have some clarification. Today we have a tape of a man clearly-confined in isolation in a cell, then subdued, and then finally, CLEARLY gasping that HE COULD NOT BREATHE. And then we watched him die.
And today we know what to expect – what will happen next, because the wheel is being set to turn in the same motion for which it has always been set. First, there will be statements from leaders and politicians of outrage, shock, sadness, condolences, and calls that “something must be done!” Then will come the calls from municipal, business, and community leaders for peace and patience, and study and reflection, and the hope that we can “come together to talk.” And then…and then we will be expected to wait until another African-American is murdered at the hands of law enforcement, for this macabre dance to begin again.
But today, we reject this impotent cycle that serves only the interests of the status quo, and the myopic and deliberately-obtuse sensibilities of those who do not have to expect that they will be murdered by law enforcement for misdemeanor charges. Today we say that the time for patience and sharing and “talking it out” has reached its expiration date.
Today we demand real, concrete, effective actions that will give us equal justice under the law and equal treatment by the agents and agencies of law enforcement. Today we do not call for peace; today we raise our vices to demand equal justice.
Today we raise our voices to demand NOT business as usual, but steps toward equal justice under the law.
Today we demand that the officers involved in unnecessarily-tasing and brutally-subduing Jamal Sutherland, be charged with murder.
Today we raise our voices not to cry-out for peace, but to demand that sufficient resources be committed to creating real-world criminal justice reforms.
Today we raise our voices not to cry-out for peace, but to demand that mental illness requires treatment and not brutal incarceration.
And today we raise our voices not to cry-out for peace, but to demand real world economic justice reforms, that finally mitigate the systemic racism of our economic, educational, legal, and political systems.
The Greenville County Democratic Black Caucus stands with and in support of all community groups and activists fighting for Justice for Black people, including protests and boycotts that have major economic impact on South Carolina, and on events that bring tourism to South Carolina.
We call on everyone who believes in the vision of our nation as a place of “Justice for All,” to join with us to make that vision a reality, by supporting actions that compel our leaders to make it so.