Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo says there should be a discussion of race relations in Monroe to avoid racial conflicts like those that have ripped the nation; it’s a discussion that should have begun 20 years ago.
In a press conference this week the mayor said racial divisions exist in the Monroe community and they must be addressed. He said, however, an effective discussion of racial problems requires all parties to admit that there is a problem.
The mayor plans to set up an advisory committee to discuss issues. He did not give a date or any other details about the proposed race relations committee.
The Mayor’s statement points to a problem that has existed in Monroe for decades and has not been adequately addressed in policies, procedures and practices of the city and many of the government subsidiaries of Greater Ouachita Parish.
It’s unfortunate that it took the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the subsequent violence that has spread across the nation to suggest to the mayor that the issue of racial inequity needs to be addressed.
The black community has been in charge of city government for the last 20 years, if race relations have not improved, who can we blame? Our community is in the driver’s seat; if racism exists in the governments we run, who do we blame?
Historically, we asked for advisory committees on race when we were in the minority and were the victims of racism. Whites needed to know “what can we do to make things better.” If we are calling the shots, it’s an empty appeal for black government leaders to set up an advisory. It would have been better if the mayor had ticked off a list of what he planned to do to make things better.
The Black community is in charge of the Monroe City School System, the Town of Richwood and the Southside Economic District. Who can we blame for racism when we are the shot callers?
In Monroe, there is an invisible line that separates Blacks and Whites in Monroe. We are one of the few cities our size that still have a “black side” of town. People on the Northside are generally satisfied with the police, school system and economic opportunity. The story is just the opposite on the black side of the “line.” What initiatives have we taken to erase that line?
It will take a decade to make it happen, but the line could at least be blurred with programs that incentivize investment and expansions that help erase the lines.
For example, The line erases when there are Post Offices and other government offices in South Monroe as well as North Monroe. It erases when a unified city and parish government promotes private investment in housing and the building of safe neighborhoods in South Monroe.
Do we need a committee to tell us that the racial line exists? The data tells the story. The data shows that every Southside school is turning out students that are academically failing, with average ACT scores so low that only a handful of graduates can even think about going to college.
That’s tragic when the data also shows that all Northside schools are academically better and that the average high school graduate is college-ready.
Our community has been in charge of the school system for nearly two decades. Who can we blame?
Who can we blame if Black citizens still feel they will not be treated fairly if stopped by a Monroe Police officer? Even though we have had four Black people to wear the Chief of Police Badge in the last 20 years, why don’t we feel safe when stopped by a Monroe Police officer? Why do some even throw bricks at them? Why do we still feel the need to march and protest?
Do we actually need a committee for black citizens to tell black leaders what they should already know? And if there is a committee will it be authentic if people like the ones who throw bricks are not included?
Our mayor is an intelligent man, but each time he seeks re-election he quickly plays the race card and pits blacks against whites when he is among blacks and talks unity in the general public.
Obviously, his “us against them” approach wins for him, but playing the race card has lasting after-effects. He wins, but the city’s hope of erasing racial animosity and distrust is the ultimate loser.
This week in Monroe, our people marched and complained about injustice, police brutality and racism. Nationally it was a social statement about the condition faced by most minorities. However, locally, we are in charge, we are marching against our own failure to act and remove barriers.
Shakespeare said it best, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.”