Michelle Obama once became a “political liability” for her husband’s presidential campaign because she said, “For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country.”
Metro Council Republicans, apparently, wouldn’t consider her qualified to serve on the new police oversight board. Her past comment makes it clear she doesn’t have a fair, unbiased perspective of America.
Of course, she was offering a profoundly honest, candid perspective of her American experience. It was Barack Obama’s political rivals, meanwhile, who saw political opportunity in smearing the future-First Lady’s character. The gross exploitation of Michelle Obama’s comment piqued the unspoken (or unrealized) resentments of many: the audacity of a Black woman to say such a terribly unpatriotic thing.
Two of the 11 nominees to Louisville’s new police oversight board were subjected to a similar, racially-tinged game of political piñata last week.
Republican members of the Metro Government Oversight and Audit Committee opposed nominees Stachelle Bussey and Antonio Taylor, both Black Louisvillians, because of respective comments they made on social media regarding police. Republicans said the posts prove that neither can be trusted to fairly and objectively assess the complex, sensitive investigations into police.
To be fair, it is not Republicans’ job to rubber stamp nominees. But Republicans weren’t simply out to question the nominees about their past comments — or that the nominees’ current views made a difference. Republicans had predetermined their course of action: They subjected these two candidates to unwritten, arbitrary standards, and they were going to grandstand on Bussey’s and Taylor’s comments for personal political gain.
The problem is that Republicans attempted to undermine two qualified nominees by attacking their character — candidates who were nominated, in part, because of their trustworthiness within the Black community. The tragedy is, they tried to make an example out of two Black people who dared to speak out.
(You can Google the comments if you’d like, but I’m not going to cut-and-paste partial quotes, out of context, which have been weaponized to tarnish Bussey’s and Taylor’s credibility.)
“In regards to these two candidates, their opinions are public, and I can’t see any way that they could be thoughtful and fair when reviewing these sensitive cases and circumstances,” Republican Councilman Anthony Piagentini said in a letter to his colleagues before the committee meeting.
In fact, it was Piagentini and other Republicans who couldn’t be unbiased or fair. So why did they even bother asking Bussey questions? Why did they challenge Taylor’s character, his ability to be fair and objective, if he had made his mind up days ahead of time?
Answer: Political opportunism — exploit the candid, sometimes raw, thoughts and emotions of two Black Louisvillians’ personal experiences.
I’m not here to defend Bussey or Taylor… they acquitted themselves admirably on their own. Yet, it’s important for the community — if not Council Republicans — to realize what this board is: public service. A position on this board is not a path to wealth or even power, and it will likely lead to infamy faster than fame. Bussey, Taylor and the other nine board members have volunteered to put themselves in the middle of the most public, scrutinized tragedies our community will face, because they want to make Louisville a better community.
Republicans would like you to think they’re on a vendetta to try, convict and sentence every hero who wears a badge.
But none of these volunteers are judge, jury or executioner. If they were, I’d agree with Republicans — I would oppose Bussey’s and Taylor’s nominations. But that’s not the job. In fact, the board doesn’t have any unilateral power or punitive authority. It is strictly a body designed to provide civilian oversight over police investigations, to ensure public transparency and accountability.
At its very foundation, oversight can only come from the skeptics: people who bring real-life experiences; who have been exposed to the unsanitized images of police and who have the ability to challenge authority.
It’s not the responsibility of Black people to trust police. The same is true of the Civilian Review and Accountability Board. An inherent trust of police would, in fact, be more disqualifying for this board than someone who hates police.
So, despite the Republicans’ gross political exploitation of these two nominees, I look forward to hearing their voices speaking truth to power. With their help, we can build a police department we can be proud of.