To the Editor:
In an interview with The Southern, Marion mayor Mike Absher said that his role in the midst of the national movement for racial equality is to “listen and learn.” In a later article, he commented further to express that he does not believe that racial bias or police brutality are issues that occur in Marion.
The assumption that Marion, or any town in Southern Illinois, is somehow exempt or untouched by issues of racial injustices takes away from the opportunity for our community members to be heard and for improvements to be made.
This is not the time for complacency in our local governments. Our country has a long and cruel history of oppression and marginalization of Black people; it is what many of our systems were founded on. Southern Illinois is not the exception. We are not absolved of our responsibility to identify shortcomings and create solutions to make our communities work for everyone.
Cities, counties and states across the country are introducing policies to improve accountability, transparency and training of police departments. Additionally, they are exploring new models of public safety that include reallocating funds to better address issues of homelessness, mental health and substance use without armed officers. To opt out of these conversations on reform is doing a disservice to our communities.