Andre Green on the City’s Black Lives Matter Banner

The evening the news broke on City Hall’s “Black Lives Matter” banner, I had the pleasure of walking around the Mystic River Housing Development with Chief Fallon and the incredible young people of Somerville’s Center for Teen Empowerment. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that when Chief Fallon was on the beat, he walked the Mystics, but I was shocked to discover residents who remembered him and remembered him fondly. The Somerville Police Department was an early adopter of Community Policing and even now stands as a national model. Our officers maintain a commitment to keeping our city safe without participating in some of the police excesses we’re seeing across the country.

Talking to our officers, they understand that if entire sections of the population don’t trust them and if they behave like occupiers in their own communities, that makes their jobs harder and more dangerous. That is why they shared our outrage at the Medford Officer promising to put holes in people. That is why you have officers with 20 years on the force still volunteering for bike patrol. That’s why the Somerville Police Department’s name deserves to be on the Black Lives Matter banner.

That being said, there are a few misunderstandings we owe it to ourselves to address. First and foremost is the sense that saying “Black Lives Matter” in some way implies that other lives do or should matter less. When we say “Save the Whales,” we’re not passing judgement on dolphins and when we donate money to Breast Cancer research we’re not saying we think people who have lung cancer ought to die. If a child is being bullied in class, we’d expect their teacher and their friends to pay them more attention to address the problem, not to ignore it and treat them all the young people the same because “all students matter.”

Even with the overwhelming majority of police in this country being admirable and dedicated public servants; make no mistake, black people in America are being bullied every day by the legacies of racism. Take a survey of your black friends and any of them will be able to tell you stories of having been treated like a suspect, simply for having been black at the wrong place and time.  


Even in Somerville, where our incredible diversity and commitment to justice put us well ahead of the game, forward progress has been slow and fitful at times. For example, the Mystic Housing Development was only integrated in the 1980s. By court order, no less. Despite having a vibrant and diverse population, Somerville trails our area when it comes to minority representation on boards and commissions. It is especially egregious when you focus upon the boards with the most power. When you also consider that you can count on one hand the number of non-white elected officials the city has ever had and count on one finger the number of non-white candidates for office, we still too often have a city with a multi-ethnic face and a singularly monotone voice.  


Our community’s commitment to Black Lives Matter is all the more important in light of our recent successes. We must bear in mind the failings and struggles of our past and view support for this movement as more evidence of our renewed promise to do better in our future. I look forward to working with the Mayor, Board of Aldermen and School Committee to ensure that we have leadership that best reflects all of the people of Somerville. “All lives” cannot matter until all of our voices do. Equally.

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