By SC House District 15 Rep. JA Moore
The recent murders of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, Ahmad Aubrey in Georgia, and George Floyd in Minneapolis bring back the trauma of Walter Scott being murdered right here in North Charleston. Unequivocally, these events have shaken our community to its core. I still carry the pain of my sister, Myra, who was murdered along with my friend, Rev. Sen. Clementa Pinckney, and seven others at Mother Emanuel AME Church. Here we are five years removed from that tragedy, which was the catalyst for me running for office, and we appear to be in a worse place now than we were then. The recent executions of our brothers and sisters is a violent reminder of why I have dedicated my life to public service. In 1962, my father was first introduced to the Civil Rights Movement and the fight for equality. After fifty years of advocacy and activism, my father passed away in 2012, three years prior to his daughter’s murder at the hands of a white supremacist.
As much as I understand the pain and tears of our community, for me these killings have reignited my sense of purpose and vigor. Now is the time to fight in the courtrooms and the legislatures. This is the time when the people need to be fully engaged in all aspects of civil society. We cannot change the hearts of our police officers until we change the make-up of our country’s police departments. Public policy will continue to underrepresent and disregard the injustices facing black people until we change the makeup of our legislatures.
We need a “Moore Justice” Agenda. Too many of our schools look like prisons rather than beacons of education. Our students are being funneled through a pipeline that exacerbates mass incarceration. This is simply unacceptable. With regards to policing, justice looks like ensuring implicit bias training for all law enforcement, requiring that the make-up of the police force is reflective of the community and creating incentives for police officers to live in the communities they police through tax credits and low interest loan programs. But in a broader sense, we need to change how we hire and train law enforcement. It takes seven years of education to become a lawyer in this country but roughly a year to become a police officer. Furthermore, we need citizen review boards that are selected independently from the departments they are reviewing. We also need to recognize that food plays a major part in mental health. We need to end food deserts and develop plans to address food insecurities by increasing investments in SNAP and the Lowcountry Food Bank.
These policies are crucial for changing the landscape of our communities. But something must change in the hearts of people like the officer who killed George Floyd earlier this week and those that remain neutral during times like these. Public policy can only go so far in creating change in our city, state, and country. We must remind ourselves that the criminal justice system isn’t broken, but in many ways is functioning as it was intended. I am committed to changing this system and ensuring that it produces liberty and justice for all. We must collectively wake up and demand justice in order to reach the mountaintop that Dr. King so eloquently described. We are in the valley right now, no doubt. But one day, we will reach the mountaintop. Until then, we must keep the faith and continue to fight injustice at every turn.