First, I’d like to offer my prayers to those who were injured on Monday, June 1, especially the retired officer who was killed and the officers who were shot. My heart also goes out to the small businesses that were damaged while trying to re-open after stay-at-home orders were lifted.
Second, thank you to my friends locally and around the country who have called to ask how I am doing. Primarily, I am tired and frustrated. This feels like an all too familiar cycle.
This same story has been in the news over and over again. Whether it’s the riots that followed the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the late 1960s. Or the local protests that followed the murder of Mike Brown or the acquittal of Jason Stockley. It all feels the same: peaceful protests during the day, property destruction and violence after the sun sets. All followed by reflections, meetings, town halls, promises to do better and, unfortunately, amnesia.
The only way we can truly break this cycle is by valuing black lives, like the life of my 12-year-old son, Aden, whose movement is even more restricted than when the mandatory shelter-in-place order was in effect. While expressing his frustration to me, he said, “First, I couldn’t leave the house because of coronavirus, now I can’t leave because of the police.”
As his mother and as a politician, I have to ask: do we want to live in a society that allows police officers to kill people in broad daylight like George Floyd? Or at night during a no-knock warrant like Breonna Taylor? Do we continue to tolerate massive health, economic, and education disparities? Do predominately black communities not deserve investment because a few protestors engaged in violence and destroyed property? Are we ok with any of this?
St. Louis, like every urban city in America is in pain. The stain of racism in this country is as American as apple pie. After every incident that reminds us that racism is still alive and well, we had opportunities to transform that pain into action through equitable policies – or let racism continue to fester like a virus that holds not only our city, but this entire country back. We don’t need another meeting or report. Forward through Ferguson gives us the prescription; we just need to take it to a pharmacy, fill it, and take the bitter pill to cure the disease.
I said it before, and I’ll keep saying this until I no longer have breath in my body. The ultimate measure of how this community, and now this country, deals with the protests will not be how quickly we get back to business, but whether we implement policy changes addressing injustice, racism and inequality. We can no longer prioritize short-term order over long-term justice.
Tishaura O. Jones is treasurer for the City of St. Louis.