One candidate vying to become Cedar Rapids mayor asserted at a forum Saturday that systemic racism exists in law enforcement — an issue that George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police last May pushed to the forefront of national conversation — but the two other candidates waffled on whether they agree.
Former Mayor Ron Corbett, the moderator of the first mayoral candidate forum of the campaign cycle leading up to the Nov. 2 election, asked all three candidates about a November Gazette article profiling Cedar Rapids police Officer E.J. Merriweather. In the article, the Black officer said he does not believe systemic racism exists, though he believes there are racist people. The candidates were asked if they concur.
Advocates for Social Justice board Vice President Amara Andrews said she “unequivocally” disagreed.
“Systemic racism is basically systemic power,” Andrews said. “It’s when a system gives power or privilege to a group over another group, and then there’s a disparate impact to the other group.”
She cited an American Civil Liberties Union study showing that a Black person in Iowa is 7.3 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person. And, she noted, that of 219 sworn personnel in the Cedar Rapids Police Department, there are four Black officers, according to the department’s 2019 annual report.
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