The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations issued the following statement responding to the ongoing discord following grand jury decisions in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y.
Officer-involved slayings of civilians should always provoke alarm, introspection and considered action, because if mishandled, the repercussions and damage to public credibility stand to be great. Likewise, the great American right to peaceably assemble and petition grievances is a sacred one that should be respected.
In recent weeks, two highly publicized cases involving police and the deaths of young, unarmed African-American men concluded with results that have threatened the sense of fairness and harmony among many, locally and nationally. Equally troubling is the twinned and expressed level of indifference and sometimes hostility toward those upset by these decisions. Together, they dampen the feel of racial progress and justice, even 50 years after major civil rights battles were waged and won.
In order for true progress to continue, we must recognize and work to correct conditions that undercut our long held values such as equal protection under the law. Ignoring or dismissing these concerns does little but to foment resentment and frustration, which often devolves into violent outbursts, advancing little. This is the time that we need to come together, to both actively listen and collectively work on solutions.
Everyone has a role to play, be it in confronting our own biases, speaking out with respectful defense of others or pushing to change institutional policies and practices that perpetuate inequality – ranging from lopsided resources for public schools to using criminal records or credit scores as barriers to jobs or housing. We cannot truly thrive until every aspect of our society is afforded equal opportunity – and that includes treatment by public safety officers and our criminal justice system. That is work to which this commission is committed.
We must show the people of this city, of this nation – particularly young people – that their lives matter, that all lives matter. Our actions must reflect a belief that there is hope for the future. Because there is.
Established in 1951, PCHR enforces civil rights laws and helps to diffuse inter-group conflict within the city.