Openly LGBTQ police captain to march at Sacramento Pride 2019
As the LGBTQ community comes together this weekend to celebrate Pride and commemorate the 50th anniversary of an uprising against law enforcement widely documented as the birth of the modern LGBTQ rights movement, a spirited public conversation has been launched about the presence of uniformed law enforcement officers at Sacramento’s march and festival.
The conversation is unfolding against the backdrop of a statewide debate over the use of deadly force by law enforcement and a national conversation about policing practices in communities of color. It’s also taking place in a federal policy climate that is less hospitable by the day to the hopes and aspirations of LGBTQ people. Queer people of color, transgender and undocumented LGBTQ people are a favorite target of the Trump Administration. In addition, acts of aggression and violence against transgender women of color are on the rise.
As someone who has both the burden and privilege of helping lead the oldest and largest LGBTQ organization in Sacramento, I join my board colleagues in recognizing that our chief duty to our community is to hold space for dissent, to engage with an open heart and mind about how we can be more responsive to improving the conditions of our most vulnerable and to demonstrate the humility it takes to successfully execute upon the mission of the center. We must ensure that all LGBTQ Sacramentans thrive.
The ravages of some police on communities of color is not lost on me. I have witnessed my mother, father and two brothers, respectively, in handcuffs. I’ve seen members of my family behind bars, relegated to a life of dependence on drugs and alcohol to manage the pain of re-entry into a society that shuns you upon release. So I feel especially accountable to queer people of color who have been robbed of opportunity at the hands of police.
But I also believe that the most effective way to agitate for enduring systemic change is through partnership.
We can’t make progress by retreating to our corners. Where we can, we must endeavor to seek common ground with law enforcement and illuminate for them how and where their actions are not in keeping with the public trust.
On this, the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, there is perhaps no better measure of our progress than to recommit ourselves to improving the conditions of our most vulnerable. We can start by making measurable progress on the public commitments on which the Sacramento LGBT Community Center and Sacramento Police Department have reached a historic agreement.
This agreement stipulates that the most marginalized in our community can seek remedy and hold us and law enforcement to account. This agreement is at the heart of our decision to invite uniformed law enforcement officers back to Pride and is intended to both affirm the presence of uniformed officers and to empower those in the LGBTQ community who have had their trust eroded by law enforcement. Our agreement is detailed further here.
If we aren’t prepared to uphold the safety and dignity of all, then we cannot be surprised when those to whom law enforcement has been disproportionately applied are stricken with fear at the sight of a uniform. Nor can we be surprised when banning that uniform doesn’t bring about the deeper change we seek. This partnership is about healing and propelling us forward.
We owe it to our city to elevate this discourse beyond symbols and rhetoric. Above all else, we owe it to one another to commit to the type of enduring systems change that ensures the dignity and safety of all LGBTQ Sacramentans.