After the video of Sheriff Ian Parkinson at the Tea Party talk surfaced, of course there would have to be backlash. Speaking to an echo chamber of people who wanted to hear exactly what he said comes off so flatly. When asked to publicly clarify his position following the Black Lives Matter rally response to it, he said he's "never seen any indication that systemic racism exists in this county."
When a leader says something like the above, it's clear they are closed to discussion. That closure hurts those who work under him, and those who the Sheriff's Department works with. I am proud to have recommended some deputies and officers who have posts under him. Those people are the embodiment of what law enforcement ought to be—deeply caring about the public they serve, looking for ways to improve the system, and having the potential to make the changes that allow our communities to thrive. But they need an engaged leader to support them, and it starts with messaging and earnest inquiry.
If you look past the social media hashtags, it's almost impossible not to see systemic racism here and elsewhere. Racism doesn't mean abject hate and targeting these days; it means there are barriers to equal access.
It does not exist as clearly here, which he was trying to clarify, as the ways it exists in urban areas with higher diversity concentrations. But one thing the Black Lives Matter movement has cracked wide open is the urgency for those who aren't disposed to question naturally to finally look at everything and ask hard questions. I would hope that Sheriff Parkinson, and anyone else who feels that way, takes the opportunity, because the people who work underneath him deserve that. Because our community deserves that.
In the same vein, as a small-business owner whose business is currently shut down, it's absolutely disheartening that those who choose not to follow the state and county orders are doing so with no relative backlash, because the leadership just isn't there. My community expects me to do the "right thing" because that's the kind of thing we do. It may yet put us out of business.
Having to make the choice between "the right thing" and "survival" shouldn't be something we have to do. If our leadership was supportive of us, through enforcement, messaging, and putting in the work—we truly would be in this together.
I truly hope our leaders make the choice to do "the right thing" and the result is our communities thriving and not just surviving.