Race Matters, Friends accuses city council of pattern of systemic racism

Posted on 6 November 2017 at 8:57pm

COLUMBIA - The city released a report on concerns it heard about racial disparity in traffic stops conducted by police. The city did not list new plans of action in the report, which it will address Monday night at its meeting. Race Matters, Friends said the report shows a pattern of systemic racism in the city council.

Race Matters, Friends Secretary Rachel Taylor said “the idea that white people are superior and other races are inferior is expressed through our social systems.”

Taylor said the city does not communicate at all. She said officials do not use social media and criticized it for not responding to emails or in-person.

"They say stuff, we're supposed to accept it. There is no feedback loop," Taylor said.

She said the one-way communication reinforces white supremacy.

"This supports the status quo power structure, and that one-way communication that resists constructive feedback reinforces the power structure in which most of the people in power are not people of color," Taylor said.

KOMU 8 News asked Fifth Ward council member Matt Pitzer about the criticism. He said the city has taken some steps over the past two years to change.

"We're in a different spot now then we were then. That doesn't mean that we can't go further and there isn't more that can and should be done," he said.

Pitzer said he is not sure the city has reached a conclusion on whether any changes made are enough. 

"We're all trying to work toward the same positive outcome, and I think it's reasonable that different people can disagree about how we're getting there and at what pace. I think it's important we kind of keep the goal in mind," Pitzer said.

Taylor said it disappointed her that the city issued the 640-page report with less than two business days to review it. 

"Makes me wonder if they were just expecting no one to read it," Taylor said. “And if that was a motivation, I feel angry about that.”

Pitzer said he wishes the city had given people more time. Race Matters, Friends plans to ask for a 30-day public comment period, and Pitzer said he would support that. 

The report detailed the city's listening tour from September 2016 to May. City officials, including city manager Mike Matthes and police chief Ken Burton, held meetings with local community groups. City council members and staff also attended two NAACP-hosted meetings on community engagement, policing, equity and civility.

Hundreds of people attended those meetings and gave recommendations for change. The city listed what is already in place to address these concerns. Taylor said the city tried to explain away the racial disparity in the vehicle stops data. 

“Have an honest conversation about these numbers, please. Let’s talk about it together, and make it better," Taylor said. "The city has decided to go to all this trouble, all this work. Just to do nothing,” she said.