Rep. Kevin Mannix’s positions do not represent crime victims of color
Republican Rep. Kevin Mannix of Keizer works on the House floor at the Oregon state Capitol in Salem on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023. (Amanda Loman/Oregon Capital Chronicle)
As Black advocates who live and work in the Salem-Keizer area, we fight for racial justice in our local and state public safety and criminal justice systems. As a sexual assault survivor and a family member of a crime victim, we are also activists for policies to help crime victims heal.
For us, there is no separating the needs of Black communities and those of people impacted by violence. We are both.
We must push back when our representative, Kevin Mannix, doubles down on incarceration and its racist outcomes while claiming to be concerned about the well-being of crime victims of color. We need to speak out when he defends Measure 11 mandatory minimum sentencing laws that have decimated our communities. When he says it’s on our behalf that he opposes Senate Bill 581, a moderate reform to lower supervision time for people who are successful and meeting their goals, we need to be clear: He is not helping us. In fact, he is advocating for a system that is hurting us, our families and our communities.
Black crime victims are the people most harmed and least helped by our public safety and criminal justice systems. Our communities are heavily policed and therefore more arrested than our white counterparts. Black communities have little trust in law enforcement from decades (and centuries) of being seen as perpetrators rather than victims.
We do not have the culturally specific services we need to restore our lives after violence. Our families are more likely to be torn apart by the foster care system and mass incarceration. And if our children are caught emotionally reacting to the traumas of systemic racism, they are more likely to be given hasty suspensions and funneled into the juvenile justice system, known as the school-to-prison pipeline.
These are not hyperbolic descriptions of what can happen to Black families. These are our personal stories and the stories of our families.
Since the 1990s, Mannix has been advancing the policies that created this landscape for us. But it’s a third of a century later, and we’ve learned a thing or two.
If increased law enforcement and incarceration were the keys to community safety, Black neighborhoods would be the safest in the world. The punishment-only experiment has failed. It’s time to invest in solutions that actually help us.
We want to heal. We need investments in victims’ services that are culturally specific and separate from the criminal legal system. Our restoration should not depend on whether we report a crime to a system that has failed us.
We want accountability for trauma, not a system that causes more trauma. Prisons are breaking us. We should fund solutions like restorative justice, diversion and treatment-based rehabilitation, not long-term cages for our loved ones.
And we want a chance to communicate with our officials. Our ideas, fears and hopes matter, so when we invite our legislators to community-wide events or make an appointment at the Capitol, don’t sideline us and then claim to speak on our behalf.
We do not consent to having our identities leveraged by Mannix to push policies that hurt our communities. We do not consent to having our bodies and lives be used to oppose legislation that would help us. Do not use our existence against us.
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