As a resident of the City of St. Louis and having been involved in politics as a youth, I am witnessing the same historical backlash to change. St. Louis City, a predominantly African American city — however, not reflected in its elected representation — is presently experiencing a revolution parallel to that of the civil rights movement. It is at this critical moment in the struggle for the soul of our community, our state, and our country — at this moment when the entrenched powers deploy the rhetoric of division to keep us from rising together for change — that we must begin the tough conversations around race and criminal justice reform from a diverse perspective. We must be willing to ask the question of why African American representation is criticized in a way where the opposite is not true. At this very point in time, we have the unique opportunity to redefine how we work collectively together in order to make the declaration of “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” true for all humans regardless of race.
Furthermore, I believe there is hope, and we all can move forward together. By letting our voices be heard, we can elect quality leadership in order to push this city and state towards reconciliation of past policies. We all must be willing to stand up against discriminatory public policies and those who continue to perpetuate false narratives and an unwillingness to see public policy from an African American perspective.
Therefore, in this time of historical reflection when black men and women are having their lives taken by certain bad acting or (corrupt) police, I feel compelled to support Steve Roberts for the 5th Senatorial District. As a state representative, lawyer, and chairman of the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus, Roberts has worked tirelessly on efforts to implement criminal justice reform to a sometimes unjust criminal justice system. He has remained an unflinching advocate in the face of current unrest as we grapple with the future of policing in African American communities. If successful, he would become the second Black man to serve in the Missouri Senate in approximately 20 years and the chamber’s only African American lawyer. It is essential that we diversify government entities that formulate public policy. I believe Roberts, a former prosecutor, has what it takes to deliver results and move our community forward — whether he is standing up for criminal justice reform, social justice, or to ensure access to proper health care and testing during COVID-19. Therefore, I endorse Steve Roberts for the 5th Senatorial District. Together, we can continue to address the unjust aspects of our criminal justice system and move our city and state in the right and just direction.
Additionally, we must re-elect Kim Gardner as circuit attorney. We cannot afford to go backward. The historical roots of racism in American policing started centuries ago and have not been completely abolished. The modern-day brutality against African Americans grew out of slave patrols, lack of adequate police training, and predominately white male forces with no diversity; over 100 years combined the Black Codes and Jim Crow Laws. It is important that we do not insult the intelligence of African American people by pretending that policing has always been equitable. It is this type of leadership that we must avoid moving forward. Kim Gardener is extremely qualified and demonstrates the courage to balance the scales of justice and not tilt them based on race.
For the first time in the history of St. Louis City, it is not business as usual, and the decision to prosecute individuals are reflected through the eyes of an African American, and various individuals are uncomfortable with that perspective. Some want to use diversionary tactics in discussing black-on-black crime in order to divert the real conversation from police reform. This tough-on-crime rhetoric produces no results in reducing crime but continues to perpetuate the same injustices of the past. History shows disproportionate numbers of African Americans in the criminal justice system as high as 85 percent, yet African Americans only make up approximately 12 percent of the population. In an article written by Connie Hassett-Walker, Gary Potter, an Eastern Kentucky University criminologist, explained that authorities didn’t punish the perpetrators when African Americans were lynched nor did the judicial system hold the police accountable for failing to intervene when Black people were being murdered by mobs. Let us evaluate the history of the justice system and correct all unjust policies and the systematic abuse that have persisted for decades. Kim Gardner as a registered nurse, former legislator, and attorney understands the need for pairing criminal justice reform with a public health approach considering the social, behavioral, and environmental factors that cause violence. Kim Gardner is a local and national leader in changing the culture of a broken system. Gardner has never wavered in her commitment to accountability despite unprecedented attacks. Decades of silence and inaction will not fix our system, but having a clear outlook on its history and how we arrived where we are will help us make the necessary changes. Let us create unity in the community and make a commitment toward fairness.
State Sen. Karla May, a Democrat, represents SD 4 comprised of a portion of the City of St. Louis, Richmond Heights, and Shrewsbury; Townships of Clayton, Hadley, Jefferson, and Gravois; and portions of Maplewood. She was sworn into office in January 2019.