“I have done my best to listen,” our Chattanooga city mayor recently stated in a Medium article, attempting to appease the masses who have dedicated themselves to the nationwide movement for Black lives.
He talks about a “new light” on the “catastrophic effects of racism” … but frankly, Mr. Mayor, we have been shining this light for more years than we can remember. You chose to shut your eyes.
Frankly, Mr. Mayor, your best has been woefully inadequate.
You insult us by taking time to write a post on Medium, rather than engaging with us.
You insult us with your attempts to pat us on the head like petulant children by giving us a mere $150,000 from the $71 MILLION proposed police budget to create a laughable “Office of Community Resilience”.
You insult us by thinking you can pacify us with your words about building a “Stronger, Safer, More Resilient Chattanooga”.
But who are you building it for?
Our demands have been quite clear: Divest in our disturbingly overfunded police department and invest in our Black and Brown communities. Provide the solutions people have been begging for; the solutions that can create systemic change so that our families can actually start to heal from centuries of trauma, neglect, abuse, and publicly sanctified murders.
You should have listened a long time ago. You should have joined us in the streets. You should have accepted our requests for meetings; for a seat at the table. Because you listen, but you don’t want to actually UNDERSTAND.
Frankly, Mr. Mayor, you’re either insulting our intelligence or underestimating our ability to organize, by assuming that a few pretty words published on the internet would make us feel validated and disband our efforts.
We have been out in the streets, marching, talking, breaking bread, asking people to come join us in understanding. We have made our demands QUITE clear. We are done asking.
Much like when Colin Kaepernick first took a knee in peaceful protest on a football field in 2016 and was mocked by the masses, we have been laughed at by officers as they arrested our own. The National Guard tear gassed peaceful protesters one Sunday, because someone knocked over a lamp post.
Frankly, Mr. Mayor, you’ve made your point clear: The city will defend lamp posts before it will defend a black life. And no amount of “listening” is going to solve that.
We have been followed by drones, we have been laughed at by officers who pause to pose for a photo when the cameras are on them — gaslighting us and attempting to make us give up. To be quiet. But what you are too blind or too inept to recognize is, we have nothing to lose. We have nothing to lose but our chains.
Frankly, Mr. Mayor, if you truly believe the words you professed in your own Medium article, your privilege is showing.
If you won’t answer, we’ll take our questions to the public: The illegal use of tear gas, the use of warfare tactics like LRAD on peaceful protestors, the continued arrests of nonviolent offenders… the list goes on and on. Does all of this — only a tiny speck of a broader movement being suppressed under the guise of white guidance by our so-called proudly liberal city of creators — sound like a rational reaction of the men and women with badges who are charged with protecting us? Is it rational to spend exorbitant amounts on military drone technology, surveillance vans, and unimaginable amounts of officer overtime pay, simply to prove a point?
Does it not show an enormous bias that when Black bodies are present you make assumptions of violence and provoke and respond by escalating the situation to create a self fulfilling prophecy?
There is only one answer to that question.
Frankly, Mr. Mayor, by refusing to side with us, you have solidified your stance as an oppressor, eager to believe that task forces and bureaucracy will absolve you of your white guilt.
Have you ever been put into a chokehold, Mr. Mayor? By someone with a gun, who you’ve been taught your whole life to fear because they face little to no ramifications for their actions? Of course we judge officers harshly. We are evolutionarily taught to do so. To falter, to let our guard down, is to become another statistic. Another name on another tombstone.
If you will continue to allow those who choke us, who mock us, who racially profile to arrest us, who KILL us at disproportionately high rates, we have no choice but to continue our cause. We will choke on our own cries in the streets before we will let you continue to make life or death decisions on our behalf.
Frankly, Mr. Mayor, we don’t give a damn about your listening unless it puts an end to our dying.
A humane reaction, when your city council members last week were told that many of your officers watched an attempted hate crime happen, would have been to immediately take action. The video of protesters being hit by a car in full view of the cops — who stood by and let the hit-and-run driver leave the scene — is widely available on Youtube. And we are certain our current proposed $71 MILLION dollar city police budget includes enough funding for dash cameras, which should make it clear which of your officers were present.
Frankly, Mr. Mayor, that tells us all we need to know about how little our lives matter, the second we dare threaten the status quo.
As our Chief of Police David Roddy gains national attention and praise for his pretty Twitter messages feigning support and understanding, he allows his officers who have domestic violence charges against them to remain on his force. He allows the officers who stood by and allowed a hit-and-run to happen to remain on the force.
At the end of May, as we mourned George Floyd’s last breaths and his public cries for help went unanswered and we were forced to relive an all too common fate, our police chief took to Twitter.
“There is no need to see more video,” he tweeted. “There no need to wait to see how ‘it plays out’. There is no need to put a knee on someone’s neck for NINE minutes. There IS a need to DO something. If you wear a badge and you don’t have an issue with this…turn it in.”
Several days later, the National Guard appeared in this supposedly liberal city. In full riot gear, they stood alongside these officers Roddy allegedly holds to a publicly claimed high standard. Where were the pretty Twitter words of encouragement and faux solidarity on that day? Or the next?
Since June 1, his personal Twitter handle, @ChiefDavidRoddy, has been silent.
And frankly, that silence is deafening. We hear it — loudly and clearly.
He should not be applauded for doing the bare minimum of merely recognizing our humanity. He does not get to decide who is and isn’t deserving of life. He is not our white savior. If he truly believed in our humanity, he wouldn’t ask officers to turn in their badges. He would take them. And if he won’t, we will.
You are proving our point, Mr. Mayor. That until we stop asking and start demanding, we will never be respected. We will never be heard. You refused our pleas for equality. You mocked us when we dared ask for equity.
We are tired. Not from marching, not from planning, not from our 7.5 hour marathon city council meeting.
Frankly, Mr. Mayor, this is only the beginning.
We are tired of not being HEARD. We are tired of being profiled. We are tired of dying. And we cannot afford to wait for an appointed board to decide if we deserve a right to equity. A right to life.
We will no longer bow down in thanks for scraps from the master’s table. We WILL take our seats at the table.
— Marie Mott & C-Grimey