As the long-overdue national recognition that Black lives matter increases, so, too, does the backlash of anti-Black violence. Bloomington, despite its progressive aspirations, is not immune.
Though the violence Black Bloomingtonians face is often less virulent (and less visible) than in other parts of the nation, our city still propagates an insidious neoliberal racism that keeps our police overfunded, our schools segregated, and our farmers’ market full of dangerous racists. Combined with more explicit calls to violence coming from national leaders, including the President, we are seeing an escalation in violence even here. The City of Bloomington and Monroe County at large are showing, if nothing else, a high level of tolerance for white supremacy that continues to foster violence against Black bodies. Many progressives in our community pride themselves on tolerance.
But, when it comes to white supremacy, we need to look in the mirror and ask ourselves: how much hate should we tolerate?
In the last week, there have been three racist incidences that have taken place in or around Bloomington. These incidents show an escalation of violence, and law enforcement’s complicity in that system of violence.
-July 1, 2020: Black IU football players on a boat at Lake Monroe are racially profiled by the white occupants of another boat at the lake, and by responding DNR Officers. (https://www.idsnews.com/…/arrest-at-lake-monroe-spurs-iu-fo…)
-July 3, 2020: Darwin “Dee” Davis, Jr., a lifelong Bloomingtonian and Bloomington South basketball star, is profiled while walking in his own neighborhood. He was stopped by an off-duty Lawrence County police officer, and forced to produce ID for “walking while Black.” Davis recorded and then recounted the experience on his Twitter Feed. (https://twitter.com/DeeDavisX/status/1279107572092620801).
-July 4, 2020: Vauhxx Rush Booker of the Bloomington Human Rights Commission is assaulted in an obvious hate crime at Lake Monroe. Mr. Booker was physically assaulted by no fewer than five white men who expressed an intention to lynch him. They jumped him from behind, pinned him to a tree, beat him, and repeatedly called for someone to get a noose, all while yelling racial slurs. Video footage shows Mr. Booker’s white friends pleading with the men to let Booker go. Friends of the would-be lynch mob also stepped in, begging them to stop what they were doing. White allies recording the incident were themselves assaulted for daring to record the event. 911 dispatchers sent DNR officers to Lake Monroe. DNR declined to arrest Booker’s assailants, claiming the Prosecutor’s office had told them “there was no immediate need to arrest anyone, and that the officers would simply file a report.”(https://www.facebook.com/vauhxx/posts/10222147157086001)
Bloomington: what level of white supremacy are YOU willing to tolerate? In just the last week, Black Bloomingtonians have been threatened and harassed on three separate occasions. Each time, this mistreatment of Black people was either co-signed or perpetrated by local law enforcement. This sends a clear message that in the City of Bloomington, and in Monroe County, anti-Black violence up to--and possibly including--public lynchings is acceptable.
In two of these situations, there were people who were willing to intervene where law enforcement did not. There were people who were NOT willing to tolerate this level of violence. This is a principle of community defense in action.
These recent examples make it absolutely clear that Bloomington and Monroe County do not need more police. Police do not make BIPOC and other marginalized people safer. What Bloomington and Monroe County need are more community members who will not allow this sort of violence to happen, and who will hold the authorities accountable for their support and tolerance of white supremacy.
In line with our overall commitment to de-policing our communities, and in light of the past week’s events, BLM-Btown demands that:
1). The attack on Mr. Booker must be immediately investigated as a hate crime.
2). The officers involved in all three of these incidents must be investigated and disciplined before their prejudice and negligence threatens the lives and safety of more Black people.
3). Monroe County must commit to investigating its relationship with the DNR, as they have repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to support anti-Black violence on Lake Monroe.
4). The City and County must commit to a freeze on all law enforcement hires, effective immediately.
5). Both the City and the County must commit to specific training in dismantling white supremacy in their policy and funding decisions to disrupt their long history of damage to BIPOC communities.
This is just the beginning of the kinds of actions the city and county we call home must take to demonstrate that they value the health, the safety, and the lives of their Black residents. If Bloomington wants to claim the label of “Safe and Civil,” our City needs to make this a reality for Black Bloomingtonians as well.
Core Council, BLM-Btown