Response Letter & Artwork to Courier Journal
Editorial on Police Shooting
Two weeks ago the Courier Journal ran an editorial story on the front page of the paper addressing the death of Sudanese refugee Deng Manyoun after a violent confrontation with a police officer. The story included an editorial cartoon by Marc Murphy, which invited readers to walk a mile in the shoes of both men before rushing to judgment about the shooting. The purpose of the editorial was to “encourage all readers to walk in others' shoes and start a conversation that is civil and productive.”
Then two days later, Dave Mutchler released an open letter to the community that was neither civil nor productive. Mutchler targeted his remarks to unnamed “sensationalists, race-baiters, and liars,” while failing to acknowledge the largely measured public response to Manyoun’s killing. When someone is killed by a police officer, it is a tragedy for all involved, and it is appropriate for the public to raise questions about whether the incident was properly handled. To do so is not to attack police officers, but to demonstrate a commitment to justice. We could certainly all stand to walk a mile in the shoes of the police officers who are charged with serving and protecting the community every day. But there are many other shoes worth considering as well.
Walk a mile in the shoes of the mental health advocates whose job it is to look out for those living with PTSD and/ or mental illness in our community, who have watched their clients harassed and harmed at times because they are misunderstood. Walk a mile in the shoes of the concerned mothers and fathers who have seen or even been the targets of racial profiling, and who legitimately fear for the safety of their children. Walk a mile in the shoes of the teachers, social service providers, legal aids, and community advocates of all stripes who are working hard every day to address economic, educational, and other disparities in our community, often with very little recognition or compensation. Walk a mile in the shoes of the organizers and activists who care enough to show up and get involved in making the community safe for everyone, even as the media misrepresents and ridicules them for doing so. These are just a few of the folks who have been raising questions about community-police relations in recent months, and they deserve to be respected.
How can we work together on improving public safety for everyone if concerned citizens are openly mocked by leaders in law enforcement? Neither police officers nor these community advocates deserve to be caricatured. As the community tries to heal, instead of threatening or dismissing citizens who are raising tough questions, I encourage Mutchler to take a step back and try on some of those shoes.
Pick a pair. Walk a mile. So many pairs to choose from…
Letter and original concept by Jenrose Fitzgerald & illustration and design by Jessica Bellamy of GRIDS: The Grassroots Information Design Studio. These words and images are ours alone, and are not intended to speak for anyone but ourselves.