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Justice for Black Lives Resolution

At the July 30 meeting of the Board of Commissioners, the Justice for Black Lives Resolution was passed. Below are Commissioner Britton's remarks before a vote was taken.

"Thank you Madam President. When this resolution was initially presented by Commissioner Johnson, I did not speak at length on its message and purpose other than to add my name as a cosponsor. I did this intentionally as I felt it was best for me to listen to my colleagues and those who suffered the effects of systemic racism and structural discrimination during the process of considering the resolution itself. I particularly felt this was important as, though I can certainly try to empathize with the experiences so many have described, it is still not enough to hear the stories in the academic sense but rather we must try to truly comprehend them as they’ve been experienced by so many in this country. My colleagues and my constituents have described to me the burdens of racism, police misconduct and discriminatory behavior in a way that someone who’s never had to experience such things can never truly understand. I was particularly struck by the comments made on a number of occasions by President Preckwinkle who experienced truly virulent racism in her life growing up in Minnesota. I’ve also had many people share with me the continued racist application of the law and the limited opportunities, inequities and disparities that so many people of color continue to experience in healthcare, educational resources, economic opportunity, housing, transportation and public safety. But much of this discussion was put into stark relief for me based on certain comments that were made recently by the President of the United States. In discussing issues of racism he stated that there was a basic equivalency between those who fly the confederate flag and the Black Lives Matter movement. Stunningly, he spoke approvingly of those who honor the flag of the confederacy, an emblem that signifies a rebellion against the government of the United States, treason against our own constitution and a commitment to the perpetual enslavement of an entire race of people. (And to those who would argue that was not the purpose of the Civil War, I would urge you to review the constitution of the confederate states which enshrined slavery perpetually in its laws). To compare that flag and what it stands for to a BLM movement -that is designed simply to attain equal rights for those who have long been oppressed, to fulfill the promise of freedom and equality enshrined in our founding documents- was profoundly disturbing but clearly reflects that we have not truly addressed the issue of racism still plaguing our nation.

This discussion by the president reminded me of some stories my family used to tell of my ancestor James, from South Macon Township Illinois. He volunteered for the 115th Illinois infantry serving in the Civil War at Fort Donelson, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, Nashville and Atlanta. My grandmother told me of his service as a private and that when he was not carrying a musket he would bear the colors of the 115th regiment or the national colors, carrying them into battle against those who would honor and fight for the confederate emblem and all that it stood for. I’m sure that when he mustered out in June 1865 he thought he had won his war, and crushed this abhorrent ideology. Unfortunately, that struggle continues, as the issues of systemic racism and structural discrimination still have not been eliminated from our society nearly 200 years later, despite the great work of so many including our county board president, many of my colleagues and of the great civil rights leaders like John Lewis, who so recently has passed. That is why I support this resolution and the change that it demands. I’m hopeful, if for no other reason than when I discuss the issues of racism with my young adult children they cannot comprehend how anyone would treat someone differently simply because of the color of their skin. To them this is an alien concept, not alien in the sense of being from another country as the President and others under the guise of nationalism would profess, but alien in the sense of being from another planet. Perhaps while my baby boom generation has not achieved the equity so many have striven for, but with the help of our next generation we will achieve this goal, and this resolution is a step in that direction. Thank you for leading us in this quest Comm. Johnson and I will leave you with a favorite bible quote of Congressman Lewis, A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment until victory."

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