Before being elected County Judge, I spent 27 years as an Educator – a Teacher, Coach and Principal. I believe the most important conversations that I had were the ones that centered around trying to convince young people to treat others like they would want to be treated. I have tried to model this daily, both professionally and personally. I was blessed to grow up in a home that stressed treating others the way you would want to be treated. Unfortunately, however, not everyone shares that same blessing.
Racism is a learned evil, a sin that finds its way into people’s hearts, and it destroys. Sadly, some of those hearts belong to our neighbors, friends, co-workers…I could go on and on. As a man that has never experienced being concerned about simple freedoms: my safety while taking a walk down the street; or my son’s safety while going out to socialize; or being watched in a store; or being denied a job because of the color of my skin, I am sad that this is the reality of so many of our citizens. The fight to end racism must be addressed in our hearts and our homes first. When we see it, we must act to stop it. The reality of racism has to end. It is not enough to talk about it anymore. We must put a plan into action that makes a difference NOW.
Our law enforcement community is made up of people who truly care about their neighborhoods and want to make a difference in the lives of people they are hired to protect. To those individuals we are truly indebted. But just like any other vocation there are individuals who make decisions that cast the whole community in a bad light. The actions that led to the death of George Floyd are criminal and sickening. Those individuals should be held accountable and justice should be served. But what can we do NOW to try to make sure nothing like that ever happens again? Transparency and training have to be the focus. We must work with our local law enforcement leaders across the nation to double our efforts in Racial Justice Training, De-escalation Training, and a comprehensive Use of Force Policy that is implemented nationally.
We all believe that essential values of right and wrong should be taught at home. However, the importance of teaching a young person to be a good human being should command more time during the school day. Our schools and teachers are often over-burdened with excessive demands on instructional time, but those decisions regarding on what we “instruct them” have to be revisited. We can’t move forward without incorporating more efforts to the education of young people about racism and why it has no place in America.
I don’t have all the answers, but I know we must start somewhere. In closing, I will share some wisdom from Dr. Martin Luther King.
I have decided to Stick with Love, Hate is too great a Burden to bear.
I will stick with Love.
Joe Pat Covington