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Community Voices: Much more can, and should, be done to protect those threatened by racial violence

On May 5, the video of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder went viral. Two white men chased and shot him while he was out for a run. The perpetrators were not arrested until almost 11 weeks after the murder — and only after the video of the February murder went viral.

Then the nation learned of Breonna Taylor, an EMT who was sleeping on March 13 when police officers rushed into the incorrect apartment during a “no-knock” raid, firing more than 20 rounds of ammunition. She died in her apartment.

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On May 25, a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd by forcefully kneeling on his neck for nine minutes. Among his final words were “I can’t breathe.” The police were called for suspected forgery. He was killed over $20.

Locally, on May 26, the Carroll County Times reported that the Ku Klux Klan distributed flyers to local homes. In the Facebook comments of the posted article, some said that the article was supporting left-wing interests in publishing the information. Others expressed that publishing such an article was creating divisions in the community. This viewpoint is deeply troubling, as the KKK is a domestic terrorist group that has worked through lynch mobs, murder and psychological terrorism to support its white supremacist agenda.

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The people of color who live in Carroll County deserve to feel as safe as its white citizens. The presence of the Ku Klux Klan actively threatens these residents.

At the bottom of the article reporting the recent Klan activities, readers are encouraged to dial the police department’s non-emergency number. We should also ask ourselves: At what point does the threat of white terrorist groups actually become an emergency?

Maryland is one of the most diverse states in the country. The most recent Census demographic estimates of Maryland place the white population at 58.8%, the Black population at 30.9%, the Latino or Hispanic population at 10.4%, and the Asian population at 6.7%. And yet, in Carroll County, the population is over 90% white.

The divisions already exist. Segregation is at the very root of American society; racism steeps into every aspect of daily life, from our housing to our school systems. Carroll County Times’ reporting on KKK activity could not create new divisions that would surpass the previous 400 years of violence at the hands of a racist system.

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On Wednesday June 3, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey responded in an interview on the podcast “The Daily” to his own personal accountability in the handling of Floyd’s murder. On the podcast, he acknowledged that he was aware of systemic racism within his own police department. However, he also stated that his government had little power over removing cops who were known to be racist, corrupt or violent, due to police union laws. If the criminal justice system is broken and will not put forth efforts to amend itself, the American people must hold the criminal justice system accountable through new reform and new legislation.

There have also been posts and comments on social media stating that not all cops are bad, or that not all white people are bad. However, it is necessary to understand that these issues are not based on individual “goodness” or “badness.” Rather, these are problems with rooted histories in the United States. When we are dealing with a legacy of slavery, Jim Crow laws and domestic terrorist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, the work we do to fight against these issues must be much bigger.

Asking ourselves whether all police officers, or all white people are “good” or “bad” does nothing to ensure that Black and Brown people stop dying. We can read and educate ourselves, such as listening to or reading Nikole Hannah-Jones’ work on the 1619 Project, or looking toward writers of color who have devoted their lives to telling their stories. Yet learning is not enough. For those of us who are white, we must use our privilege to petition our local and state governments and demand accountability.

To stay silent or inactive in the face of blatant human rights’ violations is to be complicit with these crimes. We must use our voice to advocate for those who are systematically silenced, brutalized and murdered.

Hannah Gore writes from Westminster.

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