Update 2:15 p.m.: Norman Mayor Breea Clark responded to Norman Citizens for Racial Justice's statement Friday, telling The Transcript that she will continue to work to address equity issues in Norman.
The mayor said by text Friday that she does not have a hand in disciplining city employees, and therefore was not involved in the Norman Police Department's disciplinary decisions regarding Officer Jacob McDonough.
Clark said she is thankful for NC4RJ's community work, and plans to continue working to address inclusivity issues from her leadership position.
"Since being elected to the Norman City Council, I have consistently worked to address diversity and equity issues in our community, and I will continue to do so," Clark wrote Friday. "I have always said that our motto of "Building an Inclusive Community" is an ongoing mission, and while I'm mayor we will continue these efforts."
Clark's Friday statement did not include a response to NC4RJ's list of demands for the mayor and the NPD, all of which are listed below.
Norman Citizens for Racial Justice is withdrawing its support for Mayor Breea Clark and asking that the city take several specific actions to address local racial injustice.
Norman Citizens for Racial Justice, a local activism group founded in late 2017, worked alongside Clark during the 2017 push to rename DeBarr Avenue and later endorsed Clark’s successful 2019 run for mayor.
But Thursday, NC4RJ announced it is withdrawing its standing endorsement of the mayor, calling her response to issues of local racial injustice as mayor inadequate.
“Apart from making proclamations, Mayor Clark’s recent inaction shows a reluctance to commit city resources toward racial equity,” NC4RJ’s Thursday statement says.
The group is asking that in order to demonstrate and act on a commitment to racial justice, Clark and the Norman Police Department take several actions, including:
• Adopting a racial equity framework for city governance that would guide how the city responds to and proactively addresses racial bias and injustice. NC4RJ recommended the program presented by the Government Alliance on Race and Equity, which helps jurisdictions across the country work toward racial equity and recognize structural racism and bias. The Inclusive Community Subcommittee of Norman’s Human Rights Commission also previously recommended that Norman join the alliance.
• Implementing racial bias training for the NPD and city employees. While the NPD does receive racial intelligence training, NC4RJ said current training is not focused on the experiences and perspectives of people of color, and should be led by a person of color.
• Adopting other recommendations from the Inclusive Community Subcommittee of Norman’s Human Rights Commission. At a Feb. 4 city council study session, the commission presented a list of recommendations that included everything from creating a City Equity Officer position to establishing an Inclusivity Advisory Subcommittee in Norman.
• Using city funding from the CARES Act to assist Norman residents disenfranchised by racist policies of the past, including Norman’s past status as a sundown town. NC4RJ is asking that the city direct federal funding specifically toward residents who don’t own real estate by financially supporting those facing eviction, homelessness or legal and rent issues. The city did release plans last week to allocate CARES Act funding toward rent assistance and resources for residents facing homelessness.
• Protecting residents of color by implementing competency and de-escalation training and planning to counteract racist responses to city inclusivity initiatives.
Since Norman does not have a citywide racial equity framework, city responses to racial injustice have hurt residents of color in the past, NC4RJ said in its Thursday statement.
Most recently, NC4RJ said, the mayor responded to an NPD officer’s inappropriate email by saying that she would like to host a listening session for the community when safe. Clark’s response did not include an apology, the group said, and past community comment opportunities have left residents of color feeling unsafe and threatened.
The mayor’s personal ethical framework is no longer enough to guide city responses to racial injustice, and that the city needs to adopt a vetted, research-based framework to react to injustice, the group said.
Until that happens, and until the mayor and NPD respond to the group’s demands, the group said it will “continue to withhold our endorsement of [Clark] as mayor of Norman."
"We don’t need city leadership to be perfect. We need them to be accountable. We need them to be humble enough to recognize and acknowledge their proximity to whiteness provides access to power, which enables these unjust systems to persist,” NC4RJ’s statement reads. "Norman city leaders need to respond to racial injustice in a manner that makes further talk unnecessary."
Transcript staff writer Mindy Ragan Wood contributed to this report.
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