Democracy for Monroe County’s Statement on Anti-Black Violence, July 9, 2020

Tolerance Does Not Excuse Racial Oppression and Injustice

In this moment in which the anti-Black violence by both private individuals and agents of the state belies the notion of freedom celebrated over the Independence Day weekend, Democracy for Monroe County (DFMC) stands with BlackLivesMatter Bloomington (BLM-Btown). We strongly support BLM-Btown’s vision, reasoning, and entire list of demands as outlined in their statement which follows. Our remarks on Bloomington’s problem with tolerance follow BLM-Btown’s complete statement:

The Hate We Tolerate: BLM-Btown Statement on Anti-Black Violence, July 6, 2020.

As the long-overdue national recognition that Black lives matter increases, so too does the backlash of anti-Black violence. Bloomington, despite its progressive aspirations, is not immune.

Though the violence Black Bloomingtonians face is often less virulent (and less visible) than in other parts of the nation, our city still propagates an insidious neoliberal racism that keeps our police overfunded, our schools segregated, and our farmers’ market full of dangerous racists. Combined with more explicit calls to violence coming from national leaders, including the President, we are seeing an escalation in violence even here. The City of Bloomington and Monroe County at large are showing, if nothing else, a high level of tolerance for white supremacy that continues to foster violence against Black bodies. Many progressives in our community pride themselves on tolerance.

But, when it comes to white supremacy, we need to look in the mirror and ask ourselves: how much hate should we tolerate?

In the last week, there have been three racist incidences that have taken place in or around Bloomington. These incidents show an escalation of violence, and law enforcement’s complicity in that system of violence.

  • July 3, 2020: Darwin “Dee” Davis, Jr., a lifelong Bloomingtonian and Bloomington South basketball star, is profiled while walking in his own neighborhood. He was stopped by an off-duty Lawrence County police officer, and forced to produce ID for “walking while Black.” Davis recorded and then recounted the experience on his Twitter Feed. (https://twitter.com/DeeDavisX/status/1279107572092620801).
  • July 4, 2020: Vauhxx Rush Booker of the Bloomington Human Rights Commission is assaulted in an obvious hate crime at Lake Monroe. Mr. Booker was physically assaulted by no fewer than five white men who expressed an intention to lynch him. They jumped him from behind, pinned him to a tree, beat him, and repeatedly called for someone to get a noose, all while yelling racial slurs. Video footage shows Mr. Booker’s white friends pleading with the men to let Booker go. Friends of the would-be lynch mob also stepped in, begging them to stop what they were doing. White allies recording the incident were themselves assaulted for daring to record the event. 911 dispatchers sent DNR officers to Lake Monroe. DNR declined to arrest Booker’s assailants, claiming the Prosecutor’s office had told them “there was no immediate need to arrest anyone, and that the officers would simply file a report.” (https://www.facebook.com/vauhxx/posts/10222147157086001)

Bloomington: what level of white supremacy are YOU willing to tolerate? In just the last week, Black Bloomingtonians have been threatened and harassed on three separate occasions. Each time, this mistreatment of Black people was either co-signed or perpetrated by local law enforcement. This sends a clear message that in the City of Bloomington, and in Monroe County, anti-Black violence up to–and possibly including–public lynchings is acceptable.

In two of these situations, there were people who were willing to intervene where law enforcement did not. There were people who were NOT willing to tolerate this level of violence. This is a principle of community defense in action.

These recent examples make it absolutely clear that Bloomington and Monroe County do not need more police. Police do not make BIPOC and other marginalized people safer. What Bloomington and Monroe County need are more community members who will not allow this sort of violence to happen, and who will hold the authorities accountable for their support and tolerance of white supremacy.

In line with our overall commitment to de-policing our communities, and in light of the past week’s events, BLM-Btown demands that:

  1. The attack on Mr. Booker must be immediately investigated as a hate crime,
  2. The officers involved in all three of these incidents must be investigated and disciplined before their prejudice and negligence threatens the lives and safety of more Black people.
  3. Monroe County must commit to investigating its relationship with the DNR, as they have repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to support anti-Black violence on Lake Monroe.
  4. The City and County must commit to a freeze on all law enforcement hires, effective immediately.
  5. Both the City and the County must commit to specific training in dismantling white supremacy in their policy and funding decisions to disrupt their long history of damage to BIPOC communities.

This is just the beginning of the kinds of actions the city and county we call home must take to demonstrate that they value the health, the safety, and the lives of their Black residents. If Bloomington wants to claim the label of “Safe and Civil,” our City needs to make this a reality for Black Bloomingtonians as well.

Core Council, BLM-Btown

DFMC Statement Continued

As a local grassroots political action committee, DFMC promotes equal opportunity and justice for all, especially by working with progressive groups towards a more just future. Thus, we find it important to amplify and to listen to the voices of BLM-Btown.

Here, we want to urge everyone to follow BLM-Btown’s advice “to look in the mirror and ask ourselves: how much hate should we tolerate?” It is especially important that we who identify as liberal and/or progressive do so! Why? Because it is up to us to transform local politics to foster racial justice. It is easy enough to blame Trump, right wing Republicans, and avowed white supremacists for the systemic racial injustice in Bloomington. No doubt, these factors contribute to race-related problems that permeate our culture, policies, and institutions. However, the truth is that Bloomington is exceptional in that liberals and progressives in Bloomington already have the power to change things. Yet our failure to achieve that change is sadly mundane and morally and politically indefensible. We must do better than perpetuating the racially unjust status quo.

Unfortunately, we face a roadblock. To make progress, we must stop using a warped sense of tolerance to excuse the white supremacy that underlies our community’s social, political, and criminal justice systems. We seem to fail to recognize that justice limits tolerance — not anything goes. Too often, Bloomington’s overzealous exercise of tolerance leads us to speed past those limits at the cost of freedom and equality. Yes, we are looking at you:

  • Mayor John Hamilton
  • Bloomington Common Council, Monroe County Commissioners, and Monroe County Council
  • Board of Parks Commissioners, Farmers’ Market Coordinator Marcia Veldman, and Administrator Paula McDevitt, City of Bloomington Parks and Recreation 
  • Monroe County Prosecutor Erika Oliphant
  • Chief Mike Diekhoff and the Bloomington Police Department
  • Sheriff Brad Swain and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department
  • Division of Law Enforcement of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources

We are also looking at us — liberal and progressive individuals and groups that decide who has political power.

Tolerance should be a tool for justice, not a hindrance. Tolerance does not dictate that we prevent all political consequences that trace to hate-filled ideologies or oppressive practices. Such an understanding of tolerance would render it incompatible with justice. Rather, it requires justice-based reasons for policies that don’t yield entirely neutral results. Among these reasons are those that appeal to freedom, equality, and respect for all. When push comes to shove, it is these grounding values that reveal the limits of tolerance. We cannot effectively pursue racial justice until we comprehend these limits.

It’s time to get our notion of tolerance in check so we may build the necessary vision and political will to dismantle white supremacy, end anti-Black violence, and create the Bloomington we like to believe already exists.

TOLERANCE IS NOT AN EXCUSE! END WHITE SUPREMACY NOW.