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Stay Calm

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By James Nordin
May 12, 2021

Stay calm.

There is no justification for violence.

These are the (approximate) words spoken by Mayor Lightfoot of Chicago, Illinois, after a white, male police officer shot and killed a 13-year-old boy who was running away from the officer. The officer thought the boy had a gun, but at the time he was shot, the young man was unarmed.

These also are the (approximate) words spoken by President Biden after a white, female police officer in Minnesota shot and killed a young black man who wouldn’t get out of his car. The officer thought she was using her taser but instead used her gun “accidentally.” The young man was unarmed.

Stay calm.

There is no justification for violence.

These words were spoken to the public at large, but clearly directed at the outraged community of white people and people of color who, once again, experienced the needless and perhaps criminal death of a young African-American male.

The Chicago police officer has been suspended—with pay—while the shooting is being investigated. The Minnesota police officer resigned, “For the good of the community,” but perhaps also to ensure her pension would not be at risk if she were convicted of a crime as a result of the shooting.

Stay calm.

There is no justification for violence.

In 1968, activist Ella Baker said, “The future of our culture—our country—depends not so much on what Black people do, as it does depend on what white people do. …This is a hard lesson for some of us. That the choice as to whether or not we will rid the country of racism, is a choice that White America has to make.” (Text emphasized by the author.)

More than 50 years later, white people apparently have not made the choice to rid our country of racism. Instead, we have white members of the House of Representatives and white Senators and a white former president claiming that a free and fair election was “stolen.” As a result, many states are acting to change election laws that had to be “strengthened” and are making voting more difficult, which has the effect of assuring continued white dominance. These same white people are willing to turn a blind eye to the escalation and over-reaction of white police officers that is exercised with near impunity.

Our white President says Americans aren’t racist, but institutional racism still exists. Who established and maintains those racist institutions? Who has declined to tear down those racist institutions? Who is it that would disenfranchise large numbers of people of color? It is the white Americans who continue to benefit from a white supremacist society. It is white America that has decided not to rid our country of racism. It is the white society that fails to demand that our police serve and protect our entire community. It is the white society that must tell our police officers:

Stay calm.

There is no justification for violence.

Author: James Nordin is adjunct professor in the MPA program at Sonoma State University. He is a retired federal civil servant with more than 33 years of service as a grants and financial manager and program director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. He has a passion for social equity and created and endowed ASPA’s Gloria Hobson Nordin Social Equity Award. He received his BA from Knox College, his MPA from Roosevelt University and his DPA from the University of Southern California. Nordin can be reached at [email protected].

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One Response to Stay Calm

  1. Legregory J Dykes Reply

    May 16, 2021 at 10:50 am

    Thank you for writing this article.. I really enjoyed it. You are correct; it does take white American to make a change.

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