By: Cheryl Oliver
Town of Selma Mayor
Johnston County Report reached out to five local public figures and asked them to share their personal thoughts about current social justice issues. This is the first in a series of 5 articles that will publish this week.
While I appreciate the opportunity to share my reflections on the current social justice issues and protests, I must admit I write this with mixed emotions. So many words on this topic have been written. Many resolutions and proclamations have been issued. What people are hungering for is action and positive change. I hope my words will help move us from words to positive actions.
When any lives are needlessly taken, we all have a right to protest and to be outraged. Lives are sacred. I often think we do not realize what a violent society we have become and how we have grown to increasingly devalue lives. Think about it. Our movies, TV shows, music, and art are permeated with violence and criminal activities. Our daily news headlines recount news of murders, domestic abuse, drive-by shootings, etc. How do we respond? We build more jails, create more security businesses, market cities on whether their murder rates are lower than other cities, etc. Why do we find it acceptable that any lives are needlessly lost? The question is not why there are protests today. The question is why we have waited until now to protest.
We need to all get the message that how we are responding is not working. It is appropriate that we take a fresh look at how we create communities, states, and a nation that afford all people the opportunity to live a fulfilled and successful life. We should also explore the possibility that the issue may not truly just be about the color of our skins….but that it may in today’s world also be an issue of economic disparities that are evidenced in our social, educational, and judicial systems.
I am so thankful that our protests in Johnston County have been peaceful. Protests that harm the lives or property of others obscure the message that the protesters are seeking to deliver. Perhaps some think it underscores and supports the message. I disagree. It often causes further division and delays the process of bringing people together to clearly define the issues and to create action-oriented solutions.
Despite the peaceful protests, our law enforcement officers are meeting with increased insults and other demeaning actions. They do not deserve it. They are being targeted simply because they are in law enforcement. Protestors generally do not personally know who they are spitting on, throwing bottles at, etc. They are just attacking anyone who wears a police uniform. That is so unfortunate because inside the uniforms are some of the most caring and selfless human beings on this earth who truly seek to protect and to serve all of us. Their jobs have always been stressful but in today’s environment they are even more so. We know there is a very small percentage of law enforcement officers who use their position wrongfully and they need to be held accountable for their actions. However, this does not provide a rationale for verbally and physically attacking all other officers.
In the coming days, whether in person or virtually, honest action-oriented dialogues among diverse groups need to occur in our churches, civic and business organizations, and town governments. I, along with our Council and Town Staff, will champion that in Selma and I hope others across our county, state, and country will do the same in their areas.