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White Cop From The Back

Source: Halfdark / Getty

A historic win has led to a typical display of disrespect in the small town of Parma, Missouri.

On Tuesday, former city clerk Tyus Byrd was sworn in as mayor, making her the first Black woman to ever hold the position in the midwestern town. Unfortunately, her swearing-in was subsequently met with 80 percent of the police force resigning. Likewise, the city attorney and water treatment supervisor both quit shortly before Byrd took office.

As for why exactly they resigned, Mayor Byrd said she was unclear — noting that the resignation letters could not be found and each of their computers had been cleared. And according to outgoing Mayor Randall Ramsey, who is reportedly stepping down after 37 years, the city employees gave no prior notice. One guess what suddenly changed their minds.

One Parma resident told Nashville’s WSMV, “I think it was pretty dirty the way they all quit without giving her a chance, but I don’t think they hurt the town with quitting because who needs six police for 740 people?” Others tell the NBC News affiliate that it’s time to “get the town back to the way it was, back to the flow of business.” You know, with the apparent recent break-ins and all.

This is just another reminder that Missouri is hard at work trying to be perceived as the nation’s worst state. Somewhere Florida is feeling jealous, and in my own home state of Texas, some useless Republican in the state legislature is likely seething with bitterness after falling behind in the competition.

It’s also a reminder of what little regard some have for Black women. Tyus Byrd won an election voted on by her local community and the people who are purportedly there to service their city at the commands of their elected mayor – regardless of how Black and how much of a woman she is – opted to make this all about them. Byrd says she will find their replacements in due time, though whoever steps in their shoes won’t erase the repugnance of their respective predecessors’ prejudices.

Sadly, this is not the only story of a small town meeting racial diversity and history with stupidity. Orting, Washington is the subject of a new profile in the Washington Post over the hiring and subsequent firing of its first Black police officer. Gerry Pickens was brought in intentionally, only to find himself categorized as someone who was unmotivated in the job he was hired to perform. Pickens has since contested this and ultimately found himself unemployed and entertaining legal action against the small city.

What’s most interesting about the Pickens story is that he was raised to cater to the interests of those who, unfortunately, will never truly be welcoming to him based on what he looks like.

From the profile, penned by Eli Saslow:

His parents had taught him some guidelines for living in a place that was almost entirely white: Don’t talk about being black. Act grateful. Get used to people staring and always smile back. “Gerry could fit in anywhere,” read an inscription in his high school yearbook, and it was a skill honed from necessity.

Both these stories prove much of what we already know: That many cities, big and small alike, remain slow in terms of racial inclusion and frank conversations about racism. That no matter if you are elected or selected to be a face of a government agency, some will always feel as if you don’t belong because you’re not white. That racism continues to fester and rot many places that by now should be far more evolved than they actually are.

We know this, but it’s a question of when does it ever get better? I don’t have an answer for that, but I can say I’m absolutely tired of constantly being reminded how unwanted many of us are. Even when we prove ourselves far worthier than the bigots holding grudges against us for simply existing.

Michael Arceneaux hails from Houston, lives in Harlem, and praises Beyoncé’s name wherever he goes. Follow him @youngsinick.

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