Guest Columnist

Iowa must turn protest into policy

Betty Andrews, president of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP has an exchange with Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden during
Betty Andrews, president of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP has an exchange with Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden during a meeting of the Iowa Justice Alliance with law enforcement officials and elected officials at the Cedar Rapids NAACP office in southeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

I‘m thankful to the governor for convening a table that includes law enforcement officials, government officials and leaders from the African-American community. We are at a specific moment in time right now. COVID-19 has taken back the covers off of many disparities that we have seen in the African-American community.

In many communities of color, COVID-19 has revealed the challenges and put the spotlight on those challenges. But that’s not the only pandemic that we are dealing with. We are dealing with a legacy of oppression, a proverbial knee that America has on the neck of the African-American community.

And we understand that there is pain, there is hurt, there is frustration. I’m there. I’m black and I share that pain and frustration. And we also acknowledge, as have all of our officials have, that this is a perfect time to protest and to raise awareness around these issues.

We don’t want George Floyd to die in vain. We don’t want Breona Taylor to die in vain. We want justice. And in that justice, we want the opportunity to peacefully protest.

It’s important that our voice is heard, because you often hear people say Black Lives Matter, and when you see that, you hear people say Black Lives Matter over and over again. Why are they saying that? Because they need to be heard. They want to be heard, and so what you’re seeing right now is simply an opportunity to take a microphone and make sure that they are heard.

We also invite people as they are in this process to join with the NAACP and many other organizations. Join with us as we work with our officials to bring change, to go from protest and bring alongside with that policy. Because we need to change the core.

We need to address this legacy that started with America’s greats sin — racism, slavery and all of its babies that have come since. We need to do that but we need to do that in a way that is strategic. So we must protest insistently and peacefully.

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We must press and also we must use our voice to vote. We need to go and we need to include protest, but let’s not stop there. Let’s go to policy, and then we will have power.

Bett Andrews is president of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP. This is a transcription of remarks she made at Gov. Kim Reynolds’ news conference on June 1, slightly edited for clarity.

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