COLUMBUS—Ohio House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) released this statement today following the weekend’s protests throughout the state:
“If you feel uncomfortable talking about racism, imagine what it feels like to live with it,” Leader Sykes said. “Black Ohioans are not ok. We need immediate action, not the creation of another task force or study group to confirm what we already know is wrong and broken. The time for studying racism is over. We have reports and recommendations that are created, publicized and then placed on a shelf and forgotten about, but never codified.
In order to have real and meaningful change in our society, we need EVERYONE to stand up and denounce racism, have the uncomfortable conversations to better understand one another and end it, once and for all. This state and this nation are witnessing a reckoning right now. And the current white, Republican leaders controlling all the power in Ohio need to listen, act and be on the right side of history. Black Ohioans deserve to be heard today, tomorrow and always.”
On December 12, 2014, Governor John Kasich formed The Ohio Task Force on Community-Police Relations through executive order following the deaths of Tamir Rice and John Crawford. The group issued its final report in April 2015. The Community Police Relations line item is used to implement key recommendations of the Ohio Task Force on Community Police Relations, including a database on use of force and officer-involved shootings, a public awareness campaign, and state-provided assistance with policymaking and manuals. Funding for this line item has gone down each fiscal year. With only a month left in FY 2020, the Director of Budget and Management could transfer up to $2.2 million to the Statewide Community Police Relations Fund that was created to implement key recommendations of the Task Force. Leader Sykes is skeptical this will actually happen.
“The inaction of policy makers and white elected officials in Ohio and around this country shows us time and time again that they do not believe Black Lives Matter,” Leader Sykes said.
On a media call today, Leader Sykes called for immediate and sweeping legislative reform to address racism. House Democrats have introduced numerous bills to address inequality and racial disparity issues, but few have had hearings and even fewer have seen passage. These bills address criminal justice reform, equality, gun safety, increasing the minimum wage and prohibiting discrimination in various forms. Additionally, Leader Sykes and other Democratic members are constantly calling for increasing diversity and inclusion efforts throughout the state.
In contrast, House Republicans scheduled a hearing this week of chaos and racial unrest for HB 381 – Stand Your Ground – a law which has led to the killing of many black and brown people throughout the country.
Additional examples of bills sponsored by House Republicans that adversely impact minority communities this General Assembly limit access to the ballot box (HB 680), threaten prevailing wage (HB 78, HB 663), allow hate speech on college campuses (HB 88), allow concealed weapons to be carried without a license (HB 178), and multiple bills (HB 617, HB 618, HB 649, HB 671, HB 682) that limit the authority of the Governor and the Director of Health to combat COVID-19 – a virus disproportionately affecting minority communities.
Editor’s Note: A recording of today’s media call is attached.