Earlier today, Governor Nixon announced the formation of an independent commission designed to bring all of those involved in the events in Ferguson – activists, government, business and civic leaders and concerned residents – to the table and to make recommendations based on the discussions. His announcement is a major step in the right direction. |
The best way to resolve the issues of race, socio-economics, and failed public policies affecting our community is with open and honest dialogue between the citizens demanding change and the elected officials and government representatives who have a responsibility to bring about that change.
These issues have divided us and now we have a crisis of violence in our community resulting in young people killed, deep mistrust spreading and community hurt abounding. Some of our families are mourning the loss of their children, others are afraid of what might happen to their own. The conflict increases stress and strain on our police officers and their families who worry if they will return home at the end of their shift.
People in our community are protesting for change because the underlying problems that caused this unrest are real. We should listen. Their message should be heard. Our response to this crisis can make St. Louis a national model of how to successfully address issues of equality and inclusion. We can show that civil rights do not just belong to a period in the past, but are constantly relevant in our city, our region and our nation.
Our elected leaders understand the importance of bringing everyone to the table and then taking action. Mayor Slay recently called for an inclusive, permanent entity to facilitate a dialogue between government, civil society and the business community. Just this week he emphasized that government must listen, and then take action to accomplish change. Governor Nixon’s Ferguson Commission is specifically charged with studying the events surrounding Ferguson, reaching out to experts, and making specific recommendations. I urge all sides to respond to the Governor’s invitation to participate in the discussion.
If we are serious about change, being a positive example, and improving the lives of all who live here, we must come to the table in dialogue. This conversation must take place between the people who have raised their voices in meaningful protest and the local, state and federal leaders who represent and serve our community. Every effort should be made to be fully-inclusive and ensure all options are considered. We must figure out what we can learn together and understand how this community tragedy became a world event.
The process will be difficult, as it forces us to examine uncomfortable truths about racial disparities, access to jobs, education, justice, policing and violence. But these discussions need to begin now. Failure to work together – individuals across neighborhoods, government, employers, educators and activists – will mean we are choosing an unacceptable status quo that will be bad for all of us.