Comments made by family members to mark the fifth-year anniversary of the death of Tarika Wilson show the difficult position that continues to face the Lima community when it comes to race relations.
Wilson’s family is claiming things are no better in Lima following her death on Jan. 4, 2008. The young, biracial mother was holding her baby at the time she was fatally shot by white Lima police officers during a botched drug raid. The racial tensions that followed tore at the heart of this community.
We would like to be able to say the Wilson family is wrong; that things are much better since then. The truth, however, seems to be that a lot of things were started only to fade away with time. No one in the community — black or white — is now trumpeting the need to improve race relations.
In the months following the Wilson shooting, religious leaders representing both black and white congregations put together an inspiring communitywide Palm Sunday service. As good as it was, nothing has been held since.
City Council, through the charter review commission, had an opportunity to change the city charter so candidates from outside the Lima Police Department could be interviewed the next time the police or fire chief’s job was open. There was talk about this being a good idea, but nothing has been done.
There was a push for diversity training for police officers. Has that happened? We don’t know. However, we do know that officers targeted a bar owned by the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People president and tried to shut it down. The ensuing battle between law enforcement and the civil rights leader turned embarrassing. In the end, it was discovered other bars in town had more complaint calls and the police action was dropped.
Civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson visited our community, pumping us up with lots of positive talk. He challenged people in all walks of the community to be responsible for their actions. That’s the last we’ve heard from him.
Criminals were put on notice. We all agreed that police officials needed our support. Yet last year, Allen County experienced more murders (10) than traffic fatalities (7).
City, county and community members met and formed a Citizens Review Board that went into effect two years ago. The board was tasked with investigating complaints that residents may have about law enforcement, such as ones raised last week by the Wilson family. Yet the Wilson family, or anyone else in the community, has yet to use the board and the board is considering dissolving itself.
All of this points to the difficulty of earning the trust of a group that feels scorned. It’s a never-ending, long-term process that’s only accomplished when parties from all sides respect each other. Unfortunately, it is also a process that too easily can get shoved to the back burner until another crisis occurs.
Then we go back to talking.