The Time for Systemic Change is Now

Posted on July 7, 2020

Jacquelyn McCray, Ph.D.

This guest blog is by ELGL member Jacquelyn McCray, Ph.D., a senior manager with Management Partners.

My background is in urban planning, so I believe that neighborhoods and communities, and the people who reside in them are the bedrock and foundation of cities, counties and states.  Communities are “where the action is,” where people gather for work, play, recreation, commerce, and many forms of civil discourse:  peaceful protests, civic gatherings, up-raisings, and riots.

Unfortunately, absent federal and local governmental policies related to policing in the United States, the latter is what occurred after the horrific and public killing of Mr. George Floyd by the police, civil servants who are sworn to serve and protect.

The cumulative effect of unlawful police misconduct and disparate treatment of African Americans and other people of color in this country has caused an erosion of police and community relations in many cities… a “race relations reckoning.”

I have worked as a local government consultant for over 22 years. Over the past 12-months, or so, I have become more attuned to the heightened possibility of potentially race-motivated behaviors as I have moved and traveled, frequently alone, in airports, hotels and city halls … and frequently in places where I am one of a few Black people or the “only.”

Some days the awareness is ever present, other days it barely crosses my mind. For African-Americans, the painful reality is that encounters with the police can result in death, causing irreversible and long-term trauma and harm to families, children and communities.

The adverse encounters with police officers, the abundance of video footage shared widely on social media, and policing data, prove huge disparity gaps in law enforcement, charges and sentencing for African-Americans, when compared with other racial groups.

The incidents of death and abuse by police against African-Americans sickens me to the point of “being sick and tired of being sick and tired.”  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the woman who popularized this phrase in 1964, Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer, I urge you to learn about her and others who were a part of the civil rights movement.

In addition to this feeling, I have experienced many frustrations about how entrenched everyday racism (Essed, 1990) is in our society and the magnitude of the change that needs to occur.  Another frustration that has grown throughout my career as a local government professional is the absence of African-Americans and other marginalized populations in senior management positions in local government organizations.

There are many local government leaders and professionals asking, “What is my individual and professional responsibility in providing services that support the healing and transformation process within the communities we serve? How do we support efforts that promote community policing best practices while serving multi-cultural communities?”

Many local government practitioners are also asking, if not wondering, ”What is my personal and professional responsibilities and more importantly, ethical best practices in cultivating organizations that are equitable and inclusive, and representative of  the people and the communities we serve?”

Because action, the doing, is always the hardest part of effecting change, I have provided a few resources to assist with learning about race, equity and inclusion, implicit bias, and cultural competency.

There is no one perfect solution or cure all to the current historical crisis we face in the nation’s cities. We should be prompt in beginning the change and transformation that is sorely needed.

Local government leaders, the time for systemic change is now! The change must be sustained, and the leadership must be courageous.

Selected Resources

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