La Crosse County leaders: We're committed to addressing racism

La Crosse County leaders: We're committed to addressing racism

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La Crosse County officials are horrified and deeply saddened by the death of George Floyd at the hands of a rogue Minneapolis police officer.

We struggle to understand why an African American citizen lost his life to someone sworn to protect the community. Unfortunately, this is a poor reflection on all public servants.

Across the nation, crowds of protestors — most peaceful, some destructive — are taking to the streets to vent their rage, show solidarity with their fellow citizens of color and demand change. La Crosse County is no exception.

While law enforcement has been the focus of much of the anger, it is important to point out that law enforcement reflects society. Examples abound of ways in which egregious and insidious racism permeate our society.

We need only watch the video of Amy Cooper, a white woman, threatening an African American birdwatcher, Christopher Cooper, in New York’s Central Park, for stark proof of how false accusations made to the police against people of color can potentially put their lives in danger.

Throughout our country’s history, there have been two very different systems of justice for white persons and people of color, and the spotlight is now trained on how we will address the disparity going forward.

Simply put, the issues of systemic racism that have harmed the black community, in particular, transcend law enforcement. All of us need to be part of the solution.

We ask our law enforcement partners to continue training all officers to be aware of their own biases and beliefs, but we must also ask our families, friends and neighbors — and, most importantly, ourselves — to do the same.

If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that we have been taught an inaccurate and biased history that doesn’t accurately portray the destruction of Native American, African American and Hmong cultures by the dominant white culture.

Through generational cultural conditioning, whites and people of color have been caused to think of one another as the “other.” When “othering” occurs, it’s easy to commit atrocities against each other.

Unless we recognize and rout out this destructive attitude, our society is doomed to repeat the errors of the past.

La Crosse County is committed to the trust-building, dialogue and education necessary to address the many dimensions of systemic racism. We are keenly aware that we can and must do better, and that we have a long way to go. We must replace good intentions with true commitment and action.

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