To Mayor Rusty Bailey:
On my eighteenth birthday, you gave me a voter registration form and I have voted in every election since. Because of your U.S. History class, I know the importance of voicing my opinion and attempting to use my voice for the greater good. This is why I am writing you, to voice my concern about police brutality and its effects on the African American community in Riverside.
Although we have been fortunate enough to not have a large occurrence of incidents in Riverside since Tyisha Miller in 1998, the effects of the shootings of Mike Brown, Philandro Castile, and Alton Sterling are felt here everyday. Being a member of the African American community, I know that many people feel frustrated, scared, unprotected, and like second-class citizens in this place that we call home.
In the aftermath of these events, the City of Riverside has fallen silent and has failed to reach out to people, just like me, who are hurting at this time. Many of us have spent the last week on the brink of tears thinking about the world and how we have returned to such a place of division, hate, and confusion.
While it is not expected for you to understand exactly what we are experiencing, I am asking that you make a whole-hearted effort to try. Understand that when I walk outside, the tension is palpable and there is a sadness and fear that is tangible. Everyone’s head hangs a little lower like we are all relying on the pavement to provide us with a solution to this mounting problem. When we go home, we have to explain to our children and siblings that they have to overly submit to police because somewhere along the road, the justice system has decided that their lives are not worth saving. Place yourself in the shoes of someone who has to explain to their son or daughter that they won’t die if they are pulled over by the police and imagine what that feels like for the parent who can’t be sure of that response. Right now, the only thing that we are all certain of is that we aren’t certain of anything.
The weight is heavy and I want this struggle to mean something.
This is why I am asking you, Mayor Bailey, to use your time in office to make sure that African Americans in your community are protected in this city just like anyone else. Ensure that the police force has the proper training on how to work in areas like the Eastside where the members are just as afraid of the police as the police are of the members. Require the police and other city officials to get to know the largely educated, loving, diverse African American community that consider this their home. Work with African Americans that are trying to make a difference and support them in their efforts. This is not an overnight solution but it will help heal the wounds and together, we will make sure that Riverside is a safe place for everyone.