Around the hood many believe that Bill Peifer, Bernalillo Democratic Party Chair colorblind comments made last week, while very offensive and demeaning, may actually be a clue as to why a Democratic-majority State Legislature failed to provide funding to the state’s African American Performing Art Center. Although they had no problem appropriating funding from the budget for both the Hispanic and the Native American Culture centers. And it is not the first time in a session the Legislature has totally dismissed projects and/or items specific to the black community. The center bears the name of House Majority Leader Sheryl William Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, who happens to be black. Sorry, my bad, that’s right you’re colorblind.
Earlier this month the American journey to inclusion, equality and justice suffered yet another instance of obstruction and resistance with Gov. Susana Martinez’s veto of legalization aimed to eradicate institutionalized racism (SB 269) beginning with state agencies. The perspective, in regards to the existence and effects of race in both the state and the nation, held by Martinez and New Mexican conservatives along with many influenced by their leadership, is utterly amazing. It only works to heighten animosity. The task of undoing racism is not a task New Mexicans are incapable of accomplishing but rather undoing racism is a task New Mexicans are unwilling to do. This insistent denial and attitude of superiority is crippling any genuine progression of equality within humanity, specifically in these United States of America.
The Legislature plans to revisit the issue of allowing the rehiring of law enforcement retirees. This development could potentially agitate the current tension existing statewide between the community and law enforcement. In the reintroduction of this bill, the New Mexico public is being betrayed and threatened by the potential reinforcement of these agencies’ perpetuation of a “culture of war”—specifically an “Us vs. Them” (law enforcement vs. community) mentality.
The timing of the release of WalletHub’s Report on Racial Progress in America 2017 is impeccable, correlating with the first African American president’s farewell address and the annual observation of the birth, life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The report lists the state of New Mexico as 12th-best in “racial integration” between blacks and whites and sixth-best in the level of racial progress realized over time. These occurrences seemingly unveil an opportunity unique to New Mexico as well as its black community when you consider that our state currently resembles the racially diverse culture and populace that the entire nation will maintain within the next 20 or so years. The opportunity then becomes to lead in creating a roadmap on how to achieve the hope of our Constitution to be a “perfect union”—complete with best practices and real-time experiences for the remaining 49 states. Furthermore, as we take part in annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day activities, it behooves the New Mexican Black community to swift our focus, energy and intellect on engaging activity that will make our community essential to and at the center of this transformation. Elder Michael Jefferson is a minister at Procession Ministries in Albuquerque.