On Monday, I attended the Waterloo City Council meeting and listened to the arguments for and against the resolution calling for the removal of the Waterloo Police Department’s insignia. Afterwards, I wrote a piece that I believe was objective. Today, I want to share one that is not.
To me, as a Black person, the meeting was another example of the issue underlying the griffin.
I heard numerous requests to “educate” the Black community because they obviously don’t understand the difference between a griffin and a dragon.
I heard numerous people dismiss the request to remove the griffin as unimportant, as a waste of time and money.
I heard racist undertones in statements referring to Black people being victims and the need to focus on “people” killing each other, instead of the griffin.
I heard all of the ex-police officers, family members of police officers, and others whose positive (or lack of negative) experiences with the patch or the police, speak passionately about their pride in that symbol and what it meant to them.
What I did not hear in (m)any of those passionate declarations to keep the griffin was even a hint of acknowledgment of how Black people felt.
What I did not hear in (m)any of those passionate declarations to keep the griffin was evidence that any attempt had been made to even TRY to understand why Black people are offended by the griffin.
What I did not hear in (m)any of those passionate declarations to keep the griffin gets to the root of the problem.
Black people don’t want—or need—to be lectured on the difference between two fictional characters. The difference is irrelevant. Instead, they want their feelings about this one fictional character to be heard.
Black people don’t want anyone telling them their concerns are unimportant. They want their concerns to be considered as important as those of others.
Black people understand the pride others feel in the griffin—they’ve been hearing it for 56 years. What they want is for those who are passionate about keeping the griffin to put aside that pride and hear how that revered symbol represents oppression to them.
It is true that there are bigger issues than the griffin to address—community activists have expressed some of those in the Opinion piece many have referenced.
But as many have also stated, the removal of the griffin is an actionable item which, when compared to the others, is easier to address. It provides an opportunity to display unity and take a first step to addressing the bigger issues.
In the Zoom chat on Monday, local resident Debra Carr summarized it nicely.
“Building trust and engaging relationships does not come without including ALL people, making compromises, and by incorporating what matters most to the people that have been harmed the most. No symbol should be edified beyond the dignity and worth of its people.”
I am not from Waterloo. I have neither positive or negative experiences with the Waterloo Police Department. But after attending the meeting and witnessing firsthand the divisiveness the griffin creates, I side even more strongly on the side of replacing it.
by Rachelle Chase
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