Statement on Race from Stephen Smith
Every person in our state, and every state, deserves equal protection under the law and fair representation in government. We must fight racism and discrimination head on.
Roughly three percent of West Virginians are Black. Yet, Blacks represent 12% of our state’s prison population (28% nationally). Whites and Blacks commit crimes, and use illegal substances, at the same rates. But your and my tax dollars prop up a criminal justice system where once you are charged with the crime, you are better off being rich, white, and guilty than poor, black, and innocent. That’s not right.
65 years after Brown v. Board of Education, racial discrimination persists in housing, hiring, education, policing, and incarceration. The wealth gap between Blacks and whites is actually growing.
These numbers are an affront to the West Virginia values we hold dearest: justice, liberty, and human dignity.
We must fight for a West Virginia that works for all of us. We can have a police force that sets its aims on corporate criminals and corrupt politicians, instead of poor people and Black people. We can make our state police academy a national model for de-escalation and crisis stabilization and equip every officer with body cameras. We can be a national leader in restorative justice. We can tell our state’s full history–in our museums, public art, and statehouse. We can track and hold accountable government agencies that demonstrate persistent bias–in hiring, in discipline, in education, in incarceration. We can have a government that pursues full representation for all people in the executive branch, so that those who do the people’s business look like the people. We can deliver equity, opportunity, and healing through our schools, banks, hospitals, small business, and jobs programs. We can do so much more.
But it starts with reckoning with this moment, with standing in what our hearts know to be true. What happened to George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Freda Gilmore and so many others is wrong. Wrongs like this are too common. Racism is alive in our state and nation.
The answer to our state’s many crises is not moderation, but boldness. The only shot we have of winning justice for any of us on any front, is to fight boldly on all fronts.
See our plans to address these issues below. Contact our candidate for Governor Stephen Smith directly at email@example.com with any ideas for how to make them stronger.