From the South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race:
The Community Coalition on Race strives to bridge racial barriers and to bring people together in candid dialog in order to develop constructive solutions to community conflicts. Our work has become increasingly critical as we face frequent tragic events across the nation that involve people of color and the police. Our towns are not immune from the problems that have led to mistrust of the police in the community of color and the Coalition has had cause to challenge inappropriate incidents of policing adversely impacting persons of color. We are saddened by this recent event as we have developed good relationships with both of the main parties involved in our work to improve the quality of life for all residents in our two towns.
The Coalition has a good working relationship with South Orange Police Chief Kyle Kroll. He has kept his door open to us when we have had concerns about profiling or bias in policing. He is proactive on these issues and works to change policies and practices when bias is an issue. We appreciate his efforts here and we believe he deserves the community’s respect.
BOE member Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad is the assigned liaison from the BOE to our Board of Trustees. Liaisons function in an ex officio role to keep our board informed of actions that are connected to our mission of equity and racial integration in the schools and towns. In her role as a Board of Education member and as our liaison, she is a volunteer who gives her time and talent to the community and she has a record of working for racial equity in the schools.
In reviewing the video we must acknowledge that name-calling is wrong. In this circumstance, the language is particularly problematic given that, unlike many of the criticisms leveled against police for acts of violence and insensitivity toward persons of color, Chief Kroll has acknowledged that problems exist in interactions between the police and persons of color in the community and works toward creating change through policies, hiring practices and outreach to the community.
At the same time, we are painfully aware that even routine stops by police of persons of color are filled with tension and fear and that is apparent in Ms. Lawson-Muhammad’s response. As the community grapples with the issues, we ask that we engage in constructive dialog that works toward solutions of improving the interactions of persons of colors with the police. The ongoing power dynamics in the US between whites and blacks must be candidly addressed in order to address the current unacceptable state of affairs in all aspects of social interaction.
When there are controversies like these, the Coalition advises in-person communication and conversation. We are always willing to be at the table or to recommend external, professional mediation services. In this case, we were pleased to be of help in facilitating conversations and communications between the people involved along with support and input Rev. Terry Richardson. We are aware that the parties involved are working toward reconciliation. Given their willingness to work together, we appeal to the public that comments on this incident show a concern for the safe and equitable treatment of people of color, doing what is best for all our children, and come from a communal interest in empathy.
The Executive Committee of the Community Coalition on Race