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We must take action on racism

By Rep. Katherine Rogers and Rep. Peter Leishman - Guest Columnists | Jun 6, 2020

Do you enjoy walks at your local park? Do you shop in the local corner store? Ever drive through town late at night? How about taking a jog in the neighborhood where a new house is being built? Do you fear these simple activities could risk your well-being?

If you are a person of color, you have most likely answered yes. African American men continue to lose their lives or been threatened because they did these exact activities.

This is a black and white narrative of race tensions in our country that aren’t addressed until one flash-point incident like the violent and tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The country is simmering in anger and pressure keeps building. But this time can be constructively different, if we all treat this issue and each other differently.

Even in overwhelmingly white New Hampshire, people are marching in peaceful protest. On Saturday, hundreds marched to standup for equitable treatment of all people by our police departments. On Sunday, in bucolic North Conway, more than 200 protested racial violence. People are posting pictures of themselves on social media holding “Black Lives Matter” signs all across our state.

The outrage is justified and timely but what comes next? Don’t just post your picture with a sign of sympathy then turn your back on the work done to make change.

Is a FB post with a picture of George Floyd just the current “trendy thing” until the next flash comes across the news wire or will something happen to change us this time?

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

If all we do is move on without taking action and do nothing, then we are as guilty as the perpetrators. So let’s take action! How does that happen?

For starters, we make racial violence a totally unacceptably and highly punishable offense. We can work to pass tougher laws that govern misconduct for police in the country, create a police registry for misconduct, mandate reporting of use-of-force incidents, ban racial and religious profiling and require racial bias training.

We can make this issue a constant barometer of who can and should be elected to lead our communities and our nation. We must vote for change to ensure that America will be free for people of all races. It needs to be a priority on the same level as taxes and spending and health care.

Next, we need to have a larger conversation about Racism in America – what is it, where is it, why is it happening today, and how can we stop it or at least begin to address it TOGETHER.

Third, we need to address poverty in America. Each year, the gap between rich and poor gets larger and larger, and the economic equality gap between black and white Americans remains painfully wide. Politicians need to stop just paying lip service to poverty and start passing meaningful legislation to level taxation and wages so that each family has the same chance at prosperity. We have to take a long and honest look at ourselves and answer some tough questions. Why is it that a child of color has a larger chance of going to a school with poorer physical building standards? Why are the building codes not enforced as much in neighborhoods of color? Simple questions driving complicated but necessary dialogue.

None of this is easy, but all of it is needed … now.

U.S. Sen Cory Booker said on Sunday “This is a moment in America that can’t just lead to a momentary outrage. We have to begin to do the concerted things that so many of our great heroes tried to demand. That the conscience of this country remains disturbed and uncomfortable until actual laws are changed that bring more justice to our country,”

From his lips to God’s ears.

Rep. Katherine Rogers represents Concord, Merrimack District no. 28 and Rep. Peter Leishman represents Peterborough, Hillsborough District No. 24.

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