Dear Mr. President: We are united in our division
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Dear Mr. President,

You are right. In our country there is more that unites us than divides us. Unfortunately, what unites most Americans is our divisions. White, Black, Muslim, Christian, Gay, Straight. These are just some of the words that unite so many Americans, but are also the basis for so much of our division. Although it will not be easy, like you, I believe that we can finally overcome these struggles.

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America is fragile and on edge. However, in this latest national moment of tragedy, we must act and not let another opportunity to initiate substantive change pass. Change is not easy. Also, for change to be meaningful everyone committed to seeing that change must be uncomfortable, open with their feelings and respectful of the opinions of others.

Mr. President, America, its elected officials in particular, must wake up and realize that in order for America to truly be the land of the free, serious action must be taken. When a young man is murdered on the streets of Baltimore or Chicago, it must matter to us all. When someone unarmed dies at hands of police, it must matter to us all.

When someone decides to shoot law enforcement officers, or bring terror to a school, it must matter to us all. Now is not the time to debate what type of life or loss of life means more. No life is more valuable than the next and we all must be connected through our humanity. However, to do so, we must acknowledge our faults and work on them post haste.

Mr. President, our country has always had and still has a race problem. Anyone who calls themselves an American must acknowledge this and commit to being a personal example of change. There is no race in this country that does not have biases on another, but it is time that we finally begin to break them down.

In America, every young black man in a hoodie is not a gun toting drug dealer. Every white man who drives a pick up wrapped in camouflage is not a member of the KKK. Every Police Officer who pulls over a Black person is not looking to take that person’s life over something as trivial as cigarettes. Americans of Asian and Middle Eastern descent contribute much more to our country than corner stores and carry out restaurants.

Just reading these biases should be uncomfortable for all, but is very necessary in the mission of helping us all understand our issues around race. In this moment in America’s history, we must own this country’s history of racism and recognize, in particular, the plight of Black America.

Yes, Blacks are still traumatized from the atrocities our ancestors lived through. Yes, we are also traumatized from the constant death that comes our way at the hands of law enforcement in this country. And yes, we are traumatized by the senseless daily violence in our own neighborhoods.

No, we don’t hate all white people. No, we don’t hate all police officers. Black people simply demand to be treated with respect and understanding, not the fear and judgement we are accustomed to be treated with. However, most of all we just want to live without fear of anyone, and with the same opportunities and protections as everyone else in the land of the free.

Mr. President, I know the task is tall. However, as you prepare to exit office, you can begin to push the country forward on these issues without intruding on the sanctity of the states. Mr. President, declare inner city violence, police related deaths and American gun violence Homeland Security Emergencies.

I know that due to the current state of your colleagues in Washington, that you may not have the support to enact the direct actions I am about to mention. However, you can set the stage for how these issues should be handled by the individual in your seat, moving forward.

There is nothing that prohibits the Federal Government from spending a significant amount of funding on police body cameras for departments across the country especially in our inner cities. Having this as a Homeland Security issue will undoubtedly make this a much easier process. In addition, the FBI should be conducting investigations in police related deaths. Moreover, the Federal Government should be funding innovative police training around community engagement, urban community culture, de-escalation and illicit biases.

In addition, Mr. President, our country can get serious about saving young black men from citizen violence by providing funding for family strengthening organizations. Ones like the Center For Urban Families here in Baltimore, run by your friend, Joe Jones. The Federal Government can also provide funding for innovative, non-police related violence reduction programs like Safe Streets and Ceasefire.

Moreover, what would some inner city communities look like if there was Federal funding for community violence reduction initiatives like the Detroit 300 and 300 Men March in Baltimore, instead of more military-style equipment for local police departments?

But most importantly, Mr. President, I believe you should channel your "inner FDR," and call for the creation of a new New Deal to rebuild infrastructure in our cities. Such a heavy influx of good paying jobs would certainly reduce violence in inner city neighborhoods and provide the opportunity for thousands of Americans to live better lives.

Mr. President, these are not panaceas and will certainly ruffle the feathers of many. These solutions are not problem-ending. They will not end police brutality, racism or gun violence. But they are a start.

The alternative, of course, is to once again let an opportunity to galvanize for change pass us by, and to continue to watch Americans be divided, even on the deaths of other Americans.

Sincerely,

Brandon M.Scott

Scott is a Baltimore City councilman, representing the city's 2nd District


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