BY SUPERVISOR KRISTIN OLSEN
Our families, neighborhoods, communities, cities, counties, state, and nation need healing. Deep healing. I am so saddened by all that is going on that it has taken me this long to even comment about any of it.
It’s hard to believe this is the year 2020. Watching the video of George Floyd’s murder, and on the heels of so many others, I find myself questioning whether things are actually any better today than they were in the 1960s. Have we truly made any progress in America? Or is the racism, discrimination, and mistreatment just less visible today and, therefore, ignored and tolerated?
What I do know is that as Americans – white, black, or brown — we may have equal rights on paper, but we most certainly do not have equal opportunities, and we are not treated the same.
We must do better. We must demand better. So many of us feel helpless, unsure of how to effectively participate in this call to action. Tens of thousands of people across America are peacefully protesting. Many more would but are held back by the legitimate fear of protests being overshadowed by looting, violence, and destruction.
Our own families are experiencing pain, too. Brothers and sisters turning against each other because they can’t express their opinions without resorting to yelling, name-calling, and physical temper tantrums. Emotions are high; civil dialogue and courageous conversations are lacking.
Not all cops are bad. Most are good. Many are hurting right along with the rest of us. Many are as outraged as we are at the violence that took place in Minneapolis. Do we need more training on implicit bias and on de-escalating strategies? Yes. Do we need to do a better job at weeding the bad out from the good in our law enforcement agencies? Absolutely. Do we need to hold officers accountable for their actions? No doubt about it. But we also need to be thankful for, pray for, and support the vast majority of officers who make sacrifices every day to keep us safe and serve our communities.
We need to hold ourselves accountable as well. We need to pursue justice, to stand up for the innocent, instead of sitting idly by. We need to initiate and facilitate hard, family and community conversations. We need to call out injustices and urge each other to treat our neighbors, leaders, and fellow human beings with greater respect. And we need to tell violent demonstrators and looters that their actions will not be tolerated; that they make existing injustices worse; and that they will be arrested and prosecuted.
I don’t know the answers. I don’t have the solutions. I wish I did. But I know a better tomorrow starts with each one of us individually doing our part to seek and practice love, kindness, grace, and understanding.
As I continue to search for answers, I am reminded of II Chronicles 7:14 - “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
— Kristin Olsen is the Chair of the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors and represents District 1.