COLUMBUS— State Rep. Phil Robinson (D-Solon) released a statement today following the recent protests throughout the state:
“‘Please… I can’t breathe… Momma, I love you.’
“Like many of you, I watched in horror as George Floyd uttered these final words as he was murdered in the streets of Minneapolis. I am heartbroken, devastated, and outraged by the brutal images of a white police officer choking a black man to death while three other police officers looked on in silence. My deepest condolences go out to Mr. Floyd’s family during this incredibly tragic time as they lay to rest a 46-year old man with the rest of his life in front of him.
“This senseless murder comes on the heels of recent unjust killings of other innocent black Americans, including Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and Pamela Turner. My heart goes out with my deepest sympathies to their families, friends, and all those affected by these tragedies. And just recently, two Atlanta police officers were fired after a video went viral online showing them using excessive force. These police officers used a stun gun and then violently dragged two black college students, Taniyah Pilgrim and Messiah Young, from their car as they were heading home.
“We only have to look in our own backyard here in Ohio, to see the debilitating effects of systemic racism. Recently, House Democratic Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes, a black elected official, received threats to resign or she and her father, State Senator Vernon Sykes, would be murdered. This past weekend, three black elected officials – Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, County Commissioner Kevin Boyce, and Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin – were pepper-sprayed by police officers while peacefully protesting in downtown Columbus.
“Whether it is being stopped by the police and racially profiled, being followed as I shop in a store, or asked if I work at businesses I frequent as a customer, I too, have too many stories to count of being black in America.
“These acts of hate transpired while we continue to fight against COVID-19, which came to our shores several months ago and has killed more than 100,000 Americans and counting. According to APM Research Lab, the coronavirus is disproportionately killing black Americans at a rate of 2.5 times the rate of whites nationally. And in Ohio, blacks make up 14 percent of the population, yet account for 31 percent of all COVID-19 hospitalizations.
“These recent incidents involving violence and threats against black Americans, along with countless others that were not captured on video, shine a light on the legacy of systemic racism in our country. They illustrate the constant and underlying suspicions, assumptions, and prejudice that prevent too many people from being treated with justice, love, and dignity. This cancer encourages divisive policies, nationalism, and white supremacy while simultaneously tearing at the very fabric of our nation. Every American deserves, and has the fundamental right, to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We all want to live in a society where we feel safe, protected, and respected.
“We are better than what is transpiring in our country. We can and must do better to guarantee that the liberties and freedoms of every American are protected. We must each play our role in creating a more just and equitable society. This is not the time to sit on the sidelines in silence. The moment requires the harmonization of all our voices speaking as one demanding the change we want and need.
“During these challenging times, I am inspired to see Americans of every racial and ethnic background, nationality, and sexual orientation peacefully protesting, calling attention to injustices and amplifying our collective voices. At the same time, I stand with my colleagues in discouraging the violence we have all watched exploding through cities all across our country. While everyday Americans are playing their role and calling for justice in our streets, our government has and must play a role as well. In fact, it is elected officials at the local and state levels who will have the most impact on fighting for economic justice, protecting black Americans’ civil liberties, and reforming police departments and criminal justice systems. We do not have to choose between protesting on the outside or working within our political system. That is a false choice. We need both to effect the change we want to see to live up to our values.
“In the coming weeks, I encourage my colleagues in the Ohio House of Representatives – from both political parties – to come together to pass sweeping legislative reform to address racism, economic inequality, and the challenges within our criminal justice system. Together we must work on issues regarding criminal justice reform, equality, economic investment in all communities, investing in early childhood education, increasing the minimum wage, adding more diversity and inclusion efforts throughout the state, and prohibiting discrimination in various forms. Also, we must work to fund key recommendations from Governor John Kasich’s Ohio Task Force on Community-Police Relations. These actions include a database on use of force and officer-involved shootings, a public awareness campaign, and state-provided assistance with policymaking and manuals. We must renew the Ohio promise that everyone in our state can live, work, and retire with safety and security. By working together, Governor DeWine, the Ohio House of Representatives, and the Ohio Senate can show how state government can match this historic moment.
“I am proud to be an American and I love my country. I am proud to be an Ohioan and I love my state. I fundamentally believe in the decency of our country. I believe that humanity will prevail over structural inequities; we will choose working together over being divided; and love will conquer hate. Time and again, we have proven that Americans can rise to the challenge. But, if we want to achieve our long journey towards living up to our highest ideals, we must address racism and its impact on black Americans. We must all come together and make it a priority to address systemic challenges and injustices, heal our nation, and put opportunity in the hands of all Americans.
“Every day, my wife and I begin and end our days the same way, hugging our five-year old daughter and two-year old son. Tonight, we will hold them a little tighter, watch over them as they drift to sleep a little longer, and say ‘I love you’ one more time. Inevitably, as our children get older, I know we will have to have ‘the talk’ more than once about how to navigate a world that many times does not see their humanity. And each time, the innocence and joy they enjoy now will be pierced ever so slightly as they grow up grappling with the fact they are often judged by the color of their skin, and not by the content of their character.
“Right now, all of our children, including my son and daughter, are watching us. They are watching to see how we respond in this moment. They are watching to see if too many of us will be complicit through our silence. They are watching and counting on us to build an equitable, Beloved Community for everyone. How will history judge us in this moment? I believe we are up to this challenge. Or in the words of the late former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, ‘What the people want is very simple - they want an America as good as its promise.’
Let’s get to work,” stated Rep. Robinson.
Last week, Rep. Robinson signed onto a House resolution that would designate racism as a public health crisis, echoing similar calls in Cleveland and Franklin County. The resolution, if passed, would be the first of its kind passed at the state level.
The resolution calls for the following actions:
- Establishing a glossary of terms and definitions concerning racism and health equity;
- Assert that racism is a public health crisis affecting our entire community;
- Incorporating educational efforts to address and dismantle racism, and expand understanding of racism and how racism affects individual and population health;
- Promoting community engagement, actively engaging citizens on issues of racism, and providing tools to engage actively and authentically with communities of color;
- Committing to review all portions of codified ordinances with a racial equity lens;
- Committing to conduct all human resources, vendor selection and grant management activities with a racial equity lens including reviewing all internal policies and practices such as hiring, promotions, leadership appointments and funding;
- Promoting racially equitable economic and workforce development practices;
- Promoting and encouraging all policies that prioritize the health of people of color, and support local, state, regional, and federal initiatives that advance efforts to dismantle systematic racism and mitigating exposure to adverse childhood experience and traumaTraining of all elected officials, staff, funders and grantees on workplace biases and how to mitigate them;
- Partnering and building alliances with local organizations that have a legacy and track record of confronting racism;
- Encouraging community partners and stakeholders in the education, employment, housing, and criminal justice and safety arenas to recognize racism as a public health crisis and to activate the above items;
- Securing adequate resources to successfully accomplish the above activities.