Hardy Brown, Publisher Emeritus | Contributor
Editor’s Note: This commentary was delivered by Hardy Brown, Sr., Publisher Emeritus during a meeting of the San Bernardino City Council Wednesday, June 3, 2020.
With all the protesting going on throughout the country over the murder of George Floyd by an on-duty police officer, Derrek Chuvin, pressing his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost 9 minutes, caused me to weep.
I could not cry out because it hurt so bad, and brought back the memory of having a Palm Springs Police Officer, pull his gun on me as I repaired my Black Voice Newspaper Stand in front of the Post Office on Highway 111 around eleven A.M. one Saturday morning.
This current protesting recalled the 1965 Watts Riot. My wife and I along with friends, the late George and Verna Seldon, drove through Watts as the National Guard was parked on every intersection with machine guns in their hands, poised and ready to shoot.
Burned out buildings were still smoldering on Central Ave and 103rd street. After that riot Governor Pat Brown, Sr. appointed the McCone Commission that identified lack of poor housing, limited employment opportunities, failing education, poor police relations and the unavailability of healthcare services in the South Central community as many contributing factors for the unrest.
Now, when I saw with my own eyes the appointing of five White officers by the City of San Bernardino to supervise and implement the city’s Community Policing Program, it triggered a rage in me of being disrespected, discounted, devalued, and invisible in this city—only good for paying taxes to support a city that continues to discriminate against African Americans. It hurt me and made me mad enough to come down here to fight back and let you know how I feel.
Photo by Christopher Michel/Flickr
Then I started my research on the police department and discovered that for 114 years you have never hired or even considered hiring a Black as Chief or Assistant Chief and you had only one Captain who was Black in all those years.
I want you to know I have had a personal relationship with the police department since 1972 before Warren Cocke was appointed chief. As chairman of the Police Commission, I’ve introduced police officers of all races to my community.
I still have hope and faith that systemic racism will be put aside and some of the top positions in the department before the year ends, will be African Americans.
I only have three minutes with a lot to say but in the interest of time I will conclude by saying. What you see happening across the country and in our city is what I was trying to prevent.
I am reminded of the shortest verse in the bible. Jesus wept. He did not cry out loud but silently wept as tears rolled down his cheeks. He was mourning over the loss of His friend Lazarus. I wept because of the senseless death of George Floyd but also for the way we are disrespected and treated in San Bernardino.
The way this poor community pays law enforcement salaries in the $100,000 range but cannot be employed by the city; and if we are employed, we are not promoted.
I did not know George Floyd or the late Tyisha Miller of Riverside, but I do know what good policing looks like and what happened to them could happen to me just because of the color of my skin.
So, I wept because some of my brothers and sisters whose skin is white will abuse their authority and power to kill me without any thought of being held accountable by society. That hurts worse than a few bad police officers. You still have the power and authority to begin a new path toward correcting the past 114 years of discrimination, in this city.