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Chester County Press

Kennett Township to Amend its Resolution in Support of African American Community

09/09/2020 08:11PM ● By Richard L. Gaw

At their Aug. 19 online meeting, the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors overwhelmingly agreed with a resolution to enter the township in commitment to support the Black Lives movement by establishing four initiatives aimed at creating a government and police department that would ensure that its policies were inclusive, and that with the help of diversity training, do all it could to confront direct and indirect racism.

As stated in the resolution, the township acknowledged the Black Lives Matter movement; recognized that systems of oppression such as slavery, sharecropping, Jim Crow, redlining and mass incarceration continue to affect the physical and mental health, safety, and education of African Americans; acknowledged that recent incidents such as the murders of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery “remind us that police brutality and disregard for black people’s lives has caused the loss of numerous lives for no reason other than racist biases; and that it strives to be a welcoming place where all people feel protected.”

At their Sept. 2 online meeting, the board discussed – and later approved – an amended resolution that distances the township from the Black Lives Matter movement and rather, aligns it more closely with the “systems of oppression” that the entire African-American community has faced for the past 400 years.

Resolution 2020-14 now states:

“WHEREAS, Kennett Township acknowledges that Black lives matter; and WHEREAS, Kennett Township acknowledges systems of oppression, such as slavery, sharecropping, Jim Crow, redlining, and mass incarceration continue to affect the physical and mental health, safety and education of African Americans; and

WHEREAS, Kennett Township acknowledges that recent incidents such as the murders of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery remind us that police brutality and disregard for Black people's lives has caused the loss of numerous lives for no reason other than racist biases; and

WHEREAS, Kennett Township strives to be a welcoming place where all people feel protected, included, secure and safe; and

WHEREAS, the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors stand in solidarity with the Black community, and strive to hold our township departments and ourselves to the only standard that will begin to protect all of us: one of equality and justice that embraces all people, not just those with the most privilege.

Under the revised resolution, and as part of its commitment, the township will undertake five action items:

  • Conduct a review of all existing policies to ensure they are antiracist and that all policies to be developed are also antiracist and not developed to serve only those with privilege.
  • Conduct annual diversity training with a focus on confronting direct and indirect racism.
  • Explore and implement tools and resources within the Kennett Township Police Department to enhance emergency service delivery in times of crisis for all persons.
  • When policies fail, Kennett Township will wholeheartedly engage in a root cause failure analysis in order to ameliorate the conditions that caused the defect; and continue to make the policies increasingly effective and just.
  • Develop a diverse group of advisors to township leadership that will provide guidance on issues related to racial injustice as well as the experience of minorities locally.

“The goal of the board and the township was to very clearly emphasize the message they are trying to send about the importance of having anti-racist polices, and recognizing the disturbing history of our country,” said township manager Eden Ratliff. “While there are many organizations that are doing comprehensive work to bring [the issue] to the forefront, our goal was to pass a resolution that says ‘This is what we recognize, and more importantly, this is what we are going to be doing about it.’”

‘A government of neighbors’

Supervisor Whitney Hoffman said that the revised resolution is more inclusive than its original counterpart.

“It’s important that people feel like they have a real connection with their government,” she said. “At this level -- it’s really a government of neighbors – it is important that people feel included, welcomed and encouraged not only to come to meetings, but to participate in any township functions, and to feel that government services are being delivered equally the same among everybody, and if there are any issues, that they feel welcome to come and address those.”

Referring to the inclusion of the names George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery in the revised resolution, a township resident asked the board, “How do we know that the lives lost were [racially motivated], given that the cases are still opened and unresolved? What is the basis for such a definitive statement?”

“We don’t necessarily say that those two [deaths] per se were 100 percent [racially motivated], but one would have a hard time saying that they weren’t,” Leff said. “They are a reminder that maybe there were other [deaths of African Americans] that were racially biased, but certainly those two [murders] had an aspect to them that was racial in tenor and in items of what we saw.

“All I can do is see what we all can see, and with technology these days, it’s obvious to see what happened in terms of what was going through the mind of the people who caused those men’s lives to be removed from this planet,” Leff added. “That’s a hard thing for me to understand, but at least as an observer, it certainly looked like a white man killing a black man.”

The resident continued to press the supervisors to further explain why the township has chosen to focus its revised resolution on the broader African American community than the Black Lives Matter organization, which he said “has an ideology of Marxism.”

“How are you explaining that to the public?” he asked. “You think or you hope that the public understands the difference.”

“I don’t think the Black Lives Matter organization says anything about Marxism,” supervisor Scudder Stevens said. “This [resolution] doesn’t refer to the organization. It refers to the fact that Black lives matter.”

The resident went on to quote from two of the chief founders of the Black Lives Matter organization, who in an interview admitted that they espoused Marxist principles. He stressed that it was important for the township to “make it clear” in its revised resolution that is not in alignment with Marxism.

“We have taken out the [capitalized] ‘Black Lives Matter’ because some people might get confused about it,” Leff said. “I think this [revised] resolution aligns with what the Black Lives Matter global network’s needs were when it was formed four years ago.

“They started out as a chapter-based, member-led organization, whose mission was to give local power to the people when violence was inflicted on African American communities by states and vigilantes. Remarkably, four years later, things are still about where they are. There is nothing about Marxism on their website.

“All I can do is speak to what we can do in Kennett Township, and I stand behind everything in this resolution – the way it is.”

“We are not becoming Marxists overnight or anything else,” Hoffman said. “It’s really simple, and any implication as to the other is farcical.”

“I am hopeful that this resolution will speak to the broad component of our community and say that this township wants to know if there is a problem, so that we can address it,” Stevens said, “because we are concerned about the on-goingness of 400 years of systemic racism, that affects everything from land values and school values to playing in the school yard and finding a job.” 

The resolution becomes effective immediately.

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].