City Of Kalamazoo Takes Big Step To End Local, Systemic Racism
Systemic Racism. It's something that has been going on for a while but was definitely brought to the spotlight in 2020. And its something that we, as an entire country, need to work on if it's ever going to change.
As a white woman in this country, I've faced my challenges. A lot of them. But, none of those challenges were a direct result of discrimination due to the color of my skin. And, I'm ashamed to say that it was only in recent years that I learned about systemic racism and how it affects so many people in this country. Here's the video that opened my eyes and led me down a rabbit hole of research.
I'm not here to preach. But, in order for issues to have solutions they have to be discussed. Openly. And acted upon.
After what I'm assuming were many discussions, the city of Kalamazoo is putting their money where their mouth is to become an anti-racist organization.
As reported by Mlive.com, earlier this week the city of Kalamazoo signed off on a $145,000 contract with the Michigan Public Health Institute. They'll conduct an assessment of the city's diversity, equity and inclusion. That will include:
a review of the city’s equal employment opportunity records and other personnel decisions like hiring, promotions, and separations from an equity perspective.
Is this going to instantly fix the ever present issue of systemic racism? No. However, it gives me hope to see a city not just talk about how the issue needs to be resolved but to actually put money towards it.
Now, concerns of accountability have been raised especially after it was discovered that the previous public safety chief was fired by the city manager, Jim Ritsema, even though he told everyone she retired.
Earlier in this meeting, Ritsema had said,
We understand that words are not enough, and we must demonstrate our commitment to transformational change with credible action to change policies, promote community healing and increase trust, and ensure community members are treated fairly and are truly valued.
Which seems...a little hypocritical. A sentiment shared by commissioner Erin Knott who said that Ritsema's statement was, "ironic and that it rings a bit hollow." She continued saying,
The city commission did not take the opportunity to hold the city manager accountable in December, when confronted with the facts about the chief’s departure, and instead approved a watered-down resolution that tells Ritsema not to do it again.
A valid point. Unfortunately, any responses to that statement was not reported.
But, this is how it starts. Talking about it. Sharing experiences. Calling each other out and holding each other accountable. Especially, if you're in a position of power. Of course, conversations only carry something so far. And its regrettable, for lack of a better word, that it took this long. That's why, to me, it's encouraging to see the city of Kalamazoo commit actual money to combating the human, not political, issue of racism.
I feel hopeful for the future. I'm also very uneducated as far as local issues go since I'm still new to the area. There are some great resources here in Kalamazoo like the Society for History and Racial Equity. Check out their programs for education and healing here.