Right now, my hometown of South Bend is hurting. This past weekend, a member of our South Bend community – a Black man named Eric Logan – lost his life at the hands of another member of our community – a white police officer.
While the case is still being investigated, we do know this: a South Bend family is enduring the crushing and inconsolable anguish that far too many Black and Latino families across the country have shared. Our city, and our nation, demands answers about the dynamic between our police officers and the communities they are sworn to protect.
I am not from a community of color, and I pray that I’ll never get the terrible phone call that Eric Logan’s family received last Sunday. But Eric’s death – no matter what details emerge about the circumstances and the actions of the officer involved – shines a bright light on a subject that impacts my life, your life, and the lives of Americans from all walks of life. All police work and all of American life takes place in the shadow of racism, which hurts everyone and everything it touches. Historic racism, present-day racism, and generational racism – they all secrete a kind of poison into the bloodstream of this country. And we must join together to make things right, no matter how demanding that process may be.
When someone sees police car lights in his neighborhood and is filled with fear instead of reassurance, that should move all of us to demand a change in how policing is done. When someone gets followed around a store by a security guard because she committed the sin of shopping while Black, that should spark outrage in all of us, whether we know her or not. When a parent is forced to discuss with their child how they – differently than their white peers – must be cautious in how they move and speak when confronted by a police officer, that should break all of our hearts.
There is a direct relationship between what happened in our nation’s past and what’s happening now. We cannot take racist policies and replace them with neutral policies and expect things to even out; the consequences of racial hurt for the economic and physical security of all Americans, and especially Black Americans, shape our times.
We must do more. Here at home, building on past work that has included civilian oversight, police data transparency, bias and civil rights trainings, we are now taking further steps to end the divide of distrust between police and those they serve – with transparency and accountability as our central guides.
In new ways, we will elicit community input on the policies that decide how the police department does its work – policies on body cameras, the use of force, and the prevention of bias – and we will empower community members to help shape how these policies are put into practice.
No diverse community – least of all our country as a whole – can move forward without directly confronting how racism undermines everything we work to achieve. In our past and our present, we have innumerable moments in which racial injustice came at the hands of those trusted with being instruments of justice, and this fact burdens all of us.
I believe that if there is any place that can overcome the things that are pulling people apart, it’s here in America, especially my hometown.
I thank you for your moral support in these efforts as we seek to build a safer and more just city and country.
Pete for America
PO Box 1226
South Bend, IN 46624