by Del. Joshua Cole
The past two years have brought unprecedented social and political turmoil to Virginians and Americans across the country. While we were trying to survive an unapologetic virus, we were also facing historic uprisings due to the growing awareness of racial and social injustices.
Last year, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor became household names after being victims of police brutality. As a Delegate in Virginia, my priority is keeping my constituents safe. However, we know that we have a lot of work to do when it comes to ensuring safety for communities of color that have been historically over-policed.
I do not support defunding the police. I support making our community safer for everyone. As a young Black man, this issue is personal for me. I understand the fear and frustration that Black Virginians feel when they see service members like Second Lieutenant Caron Nazario brutalized by police officers. I understand the pain Black Virginians feel when they see people like Isaiah Brown shot by Virginia police on camera. These instances are painful. They are traumatizing, and they highlight a real need for change.
No one should feel afraid of law enforcement. We need to work together towards unification. I know it’s a challenge, but I am committed to igniting this much-needed change.
That’s why I voted to secure more money for police academies to better train police in the Commonwealth, so that our officers would be well-equipped to protect everyone in our community. I’ve also voiced major concerns and taken action to end unjust enforcement practices. I voted to ban chokeholds, no knock warrants and required the use of body cams.
Putting these additional protections in place ensures that everyone is being protected fairly no matter their zip code or the color of their skin. I am also a staunch advocate for recruiting more diverse candidates into law enforcement and decertifying officers who have abused their authority, because this is a very important first step towards providing every Virginian the safety they deserve.
But there is more work to be done. The racial disparities that are rooted in our system go beyond police violence against Black Americans. It’s in our education system and in our healthcare system. We see the disparities in access to broadband and in how our communities are heavily polluted and affected by climate change. These inequalities have disproportionately impacted Black Americans and it cannot be ignored when one community in our Commonwealth is affected more than others.
Systemic problems require systemic solutions. Our leaders in the city, state, local and federal government in collaboration with community leaders and safety advocates should have difficult and uncomfortable conversations about the racial disparities that affect their constituents. Some of these conversations have already started, but we must continue. This is the only way we will be able to provide Americans in our Commonwealth with real solutions.
Sadly, there are some that will use these conversations against us and try to divide our community, simply because they do not have a better plan for our future. We need leaders who will find ways to unite us and work together against the systemic issues that create unequal and unfair circumstances for our constituents. As your Delegate, that’s exactly what I’ve tried to do.
Fighting for equality should never be considered a partisan issue. Leaders from both sides of the aisle should be prepared to work together for a better future for everyone.
We cannot afford to have leaders like Tara Durant represent our community.
They do not make an effort to understand the tribulations that Black Americans have to endure from the moment they are born and having important conversations is only the first step to ensure that everyone in our community has access to the resources they need and are fairly protected.