On Monday evening at the Forest Park Village Council meeting, Commissioner Jessica Voogd was plain-spoken about issues of race and violence in America following the murder by police of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Voogd pledged personally to focus on being anti-racist in her actions. It is a pledge the entire council needs to take in governing this village in what will be, thankfully, a new and more complex time.
Anti-racist is a pretty new term to most of us. It demands more of us as individuals and as entities than pretending we’re not racists, suggesting somehow we are blind to color. It assumes we live in a society that is racist, which is certainly true. It assumes that each of us, in degrees, has racism within us. Also true.
Ibram X. Kendi, one of the leading voices in the anti-racism movement, writes, “To be anti-racist is a radical choice in the face of history, requiring a radical reorientation of our consciousness.”
This is the moment for Forest Park to determinedly make that radical choice to be anti-racist. It is a conscious choice that will lead to an imperfect, and if we’re doing it right, frequently uncomfortable process of discussion, decision, change.
We see racism at work in our schools, in housing, in economics, in news gathering. But in this moment, racism’s most blatant hold on us as a nation is in policing. And that makes this a critical place to start for America and for Forest Park.
We reported this week the post-George Floyd thoughts of Mayor Rory Hoskins, this town’s first black mayor. He was candid in describing his life experience. But he was more sanguine than the Review in assessing the current state of the Forest Park Police Department. Even as he acknowledged the well-documented and painful history and perception of the department, Hoskins affirmed a belief that today’s department is far different.
Like the mayor, we admire Police Chief Tom Aftanas and his efforts to take the shutters off this department, his willingness to speak more openly, his more direct action to face shortcomings. But it is not enough. We think he knows that. And now all of Forest Park has to talk about what needs to be better in our local policing.
Hoskins, on Monday night, said he plans a town hall where the current policies of the department can be explained. Explaining the status quo would make a good first 10 minutes of a town hall. Spending the rest of the evening listening to residents, to critics would be time well spent.
We want to talk about use-of-force policies. We want action at opening up citizen complaints and disciplinary action against officers. We want changes — and it may take state action — that allows proactive recruitment and hiring of black and brown officers.
These are big ideas, necessary and radical changes. There will never be a moment of greater opportunity to rethink and remake policing in America and in Forest Park.
There will never be a more important moment for our village to embrace anti-racism.