The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is the fact that all humans deserve to be free to become the best that they can be. Racism has been a problem worldwide for hundreds of years. It should have ended in America with the Civil War and the three new amendments to the U.S. Constitution, but it did not. It should have ended with the Civil Rights Act of 1960, but it did not. Thousands of white people thought that they could end racism by voting for a black man for President of the United States. Barack Obama was elected as president – twice – and served for eight years in the most powerful position in the world. Yet, racism is still a problem in our nation, and it seems to be getting worse.
The more that government does to solve the problem of racism, the more racism grows. Maybe it is a problem that government cannot solve, but Salt Lake City is attacking the problems of systemic racism.
Some cities tried to solve the problem of racism by defunding the police departments. Such cities cut so many police from their department that crime escalated – and the police had to be rehired. Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall went the opposite direction. She increased salaries for new recruits by 30 percent and for senior officers by 12 percent. Her intention is to attract and keep the best officers. The higher salaries show that the city government is behind the police officers and brings a higher level of dignity to the job.
Mayor Mendenhall and the City Council proclaimed last week that “racism is a public health crisis.” They resolved to “look closely for racist legacies within the city’s own policy framework and beyond.” Racism is one of the words that has become highly politicized, so Salt Lake City went with a definition provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Racism is a system – consisting of structures, policies, practices, and norms – that assigns value and determines opportunity based on the way people look or the color of their skin.”
The proclamation from Salt Lake City sounds much like the Utah Compact on Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion unveiled last December by former Governor Gary Herbert and other political and community leaders. Herbert said at the time that the compact was “just a beginning” something to help individuals and groups to build something better.
The first step to stopping racism is to recognize that there is a problem. It appears that Salt Lake City and Utah have recognized the problem and are moving forward with plans to take more steps to overcoming racism. Maybe racism can be solved by government, but it looks like it will be state and local governments doing the work rather than the federal government with all its power.