Statement on Public Officials, Systemic Racism and Police Brutality
WASHINGTON (Sept. 4, 2020) – Congressman Dwight Evans (PA-03) and Chad Dion Lassiter, executive director of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, issued the following statement in response to recent widely reported comments questioning the existence of systemic racism in the United States and alleging there is sensationalism around incidents of African Americans dying at the hands of police:
“Too many people base their views solely on their own experiences. Public officials have a duty to look beyond their own individual lives to the larger community they are supposed to serve. If you haven’t experienced a troubling police stop, haven’t had to receive ‘the talk’ about police that African American parents still have to have with their children in 2020, and never been followed around in a store because of the color of your skin, those are the types of out-of-touch comments you might make.
“Disrespecting George Floyd’s memory by saying police brutality isn’t what killed him is disturbing. Our laws don’t prescribe the death penalty for a counterfeit $20 bill, like Mr. Floyd allegedly had, or selling loose cigarettes, as Eric Garner allegedly did in 2014. If Mr. Floyd hadn’t had a knee on his neck for nearly 9 minutes, he would probably be alive today. That is like promoting the discredited idea that most of the 186,000 Americans who died from the coronavirus died from something else. If our nation had this uniquely deadly and contagious virus under control, many of those Americans would probably still be alive today even though they had heart disease, diabetes or another condition that people survive for years or decades. And if our nation had policing reforms in place, more of our fellow Americans like George Floyd would still be alive today. That’s why the U.S. House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in June, with the support of three Republican congressmen, including one from Pennsylvania. That bill deserves real consideration in the U.S. Senate.
“Public officials have a duty to make policy for all of their constituents, not just the ones who look like them, and to try to understand the life experiences of a wide range of their constituents. ‘We the people’ is supposed to mean all of the people in 2020 America. A public official may not be experiencing unemployment or the loss of health insurance, racial discrimination or other problems personally, but we have a duty to act on behalf of our fellow Americans who do. The saying ‘there but for the grace of God go I’ is a useful guide for any person of faith.”