A resolution supporting Black Lives Matter and marginalized groups is in front of the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly tonight. After public comment last Thursday, debate on the resolution was postponed because the Assembly ran out of time. The resolution focuses on racism and police brutality.
The Assembly received many emailed comments before the meeting began, but more came in-person and by telephone. Alaska House representative Mike Prax says he thinks the nationwide conversation about police brutality is important and he is learning a lot, but he did not like the resolution.
“We are working on it, at the state House level, and it's really if, if systemic racism is a problem, a problem that, and what can be done about it from the government. And I think all police departments, whether there is a problem (with racism) or not, we always gotta focus on continuous improvement. But this resolution doesn't get toward the solution."
School Board president Wendy Dominique explained how racism in our institutions is leftover from laws that put it there.
“Here is the danger of denying that systematic racism exists: when you negate that system, racism endures. This disclaimer robs us of our chance to scrutinize our policies and practices.”
The Resolution’s title is: In Support Of The Black Lives Matter Movement, And Civil Rights For All People, Notably Those Individuals From Historically Marginalized Groups.
Use of the name of the nationwide activist group, Black Lives Matter, was troublesome for some, even though clauses in the resolution clarified that "none matter more than others," and that is the point.
John Hanchet told the Assembly that the name of the group, Black Lives Matter, is confusing to him, and has moved beyond the simple phrase it uses.
“But I think there is also connotation that when you use that group’s slogan or name, it has other connotations as to the organization that may or may not really represent their cause.”
Others, like Alan Mitchell, thought the language was too broad.
“Changes have to be made. But this is what I would call reckless language. We all want reform. We all want things to be changed. I think this is too much of a blanket, or what I call a 'wide brush' policy.”
The resolution is an expression of support and does not have the weight of law. The Fairbanks City Council passed a similar measure recently, as reported by councilmember Aaron Gibson.
“That resolution was passed unanimously by the city council. And that resolution was more of a committment by the City of Fairbanks to work on making sure that we train our officers, as well as recommitting to trying to hire a more diverse police workforce."
The Assembly will resume its meeting from last week with public hearings on voting and budget ordinances, but public hearing on the Black Lives Matter measure is closed.