OPINION – Sacramento, CA has been my home for most of my life. I was born in June 1964, a landmark year for civil rights and a year before the voting rights act was passed. It was a time of great hope with the promise of change by finally including a group of people who had been brought here against their will on slave ships some 400 years ago. The thought was, as full citizens and now able to vote, the United States of America would strengthen its position as a model country and sit as a shining beacon on the hilltop of humanity. The United States of America has been a test case for an inclusive democratic society. The change in America to allow blacks to vote was another step forward and a step away from the dark history of slavery, which had been a brutal system of oppression and served to dehumanize an entire race of people. The intergenerational trauma of slavery remains prevalent today in the year 2019.
In 1972, as an 8-year-old boy growing up in the Del Paso Heights community in North Sacramento, I was jarred into the reality of the killing of a young unarmed black boy. This boy was not only unarmed and unthreatening but was on his way home from a popular skating rink with friends when he was shot in the back and killed by Sacramento police officers. The black boy that was shot and killed was a tremendous athlete, excellent student, from a great family and the brother of a good friend of mine. The boy that was killed was named Raymond Brewer. This shooting was a flashpoint for Sacramento and had given us a preview of what was to come in our City.
In the Brewer killing, the police officers came under great scrutiny but ultimately, the shooting was found justified. However, the killing was unjustified. To say that the police officers involved didn’t face consequences would not be an accurate accounting. Although there were no jail sentences or disciplinary actions that I know of, after having spoken to the son of one of the shooting officers I came to learn how their lives had changed; and how this son too had decided to become a Sacramento police officer and would commit to being as good of a police officer as he could be. The son of that cop went on to rise through the ranks of the police department and later retired as the Chief of the Sacramento Police Department.
Over the years, I maintained my friendship with the Brewer family. Raymond’s younger brother with whom I had grown up playing youth sports went on to graduate from college and has had a successful career working in and around our State Capitol, humbly and successfully teaching young people to use the governmental political system. Following my election to the Sacramento City Council in November 2012, I called my friend and asked him to meet me for lunch. I had an idea that I was excited to share with him. My idea was to propose naming a park in Raymond’s honor as a gesture to continuing the healing process for the family and the community. To my surprise, the idea was met with a lukewarm response. My friend told me that the wounds from Raymond’s killing were still very painful for his family. He shared that the Brewer family had made peace with what had happened, and they have learned to forgive for it. After thanking me, he respectfully declined on behalf of the family because the pain of the loss was still too great.
These tragedies continue to plague our communities. Sacramento is now faced with the Stephon Clark killing. Another young unarmed black man shot by the Sacramento police in his grandparents’ backyard and yes, under very questionable circumstances. There have been others.
Police officers attempted to use their car to run over Joseph Mann. Although he wasn’t hit and killed by the police car, he was subsequently shot multiple times and killed by what seemed an unreasonable amount of bullets. Again, under very questionable circumstances by the Sacramento police department in 2016.
These killings in my opinion demonstrate an insensitivity and an outright disrespect for the lives of black people. Another example, although not as extreme, was the violent assault by Sacramento police officers on Nandi Cain for jaywalking one evening on his way home from work. He was accused of walking across the street outside of the crosswalk. It seems unbelievable that this and other similar incidents occurred however, I lived them both as a private citizen and later as an elected official. I have witnessed the City of Sacramento pay out large sums of money as a result of these occurrences. When these types of things happen, they damage the fabric of our families, our communities, and the cost to our city is immeasurable.
Sacramento is recognized for its diversity yet continues to fail to address the socioeconomic and criminal justice inequities of black people. The concentration of poverty, low educational attainment, high suspensions, high unemployment, mass incarceration, high rates of discrimination complaints are all evident of the treatment of black people as unworthy of human dignity. The systems are not built to support all people. Take time to review “The History of Policing in America” and it will offer perspective as it shines a light on how we got to where we are regarding the treatment of blacks in America and here in Sacramento. I am deeply troubled as these injustices have filtered into our educational system. Which students will be impacted as a result of police on our school campuses? Please read the links to two articles recently published regarding how this action will adversely impact black kids and kids of color.
Article #1 – https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/school-to-prison-pipeline_us_5a8ee0afe4b077f5bfec2cf3
Article #2 – https://psmag.com/education/after-parkland-schools-upped-police-presence-has-it-made-students-safer
The un-justice system is killing our black children, adults, and families. There is an ugly underbelly in Sacramento that perpetuates the inequitable treatment of black people. Our District Attorney over justified the killing of an unarmed black man by releasing his private communications with the mother of his children. I condemn the public portrayal of Stephon Clark by our District Attorney as suicidal, and I object to her putting his personal communications on public display. I also condemn the Sacramento police department for their actions during a nonviolent march that resulted in the arrest of over 80 citizens who were exercising their right to protest. I hurt for the Clark family, and I am angry at the system that has continued to allow the killing of unarmed black people all over this country.
Where do we go from here? One way to start is by electing people who are NOT afraid to stand up to the powerful special interest groups regardless of the consequences. Elect and support those who will fight against inequities and help create solutions to address them. Elect those who are prepared to listen and serve the people of Sacramento.
We must demand that our City Manager use the full force of his position to implement the changes that will correct inequities that exist within our City structure that disproportionately impact black people. We must demand that our chief of police enforce the use of Force Policy that the city council approved and hold his officers accountable. We must support legislation that disincentivize the use of deadly force by police officers against people of color and all human beings.
Finally, we must demand that Sacramento hold the City Council members and the Mayor accountable to implement policies that will make our city safe and just for ALL people. Our diversity is our strength. Let’s not only read about it in magazines and in the paper, let’s demonstrate the value of our differences by our actions. Greatness comes in all races, religions and colors and blacks have absolutely demonstrated throughout history that we are great as well and deserving of the same opportunities and considerations as every other race and color of people. Human dignity and respect must be for all.
We must do better! #SacramentoProud
By Allen Warren | Sacramento City Council, Dist. 2