A main item on the agenda of the Princeton Borough Council meeting on Tuesday, December 8, was a proposed ordinance concerning what would be the best
structure for the Borough supervision of the police department. The focus was on whether the appropriate body
would be the Borough Administrator or a Public Safety Committee (PSC) consisting of some members of the Council.
Four members of the public spoke about their views. Maria Juega spoke on behalf of the Latin American Legal Defense Fund and Ann Yasuhara spoke
on behalf of Not In Our Town; both emphasized the importance of establishing regular avenues of communication between the public and the PSC. This is what Ann said:
To: Princeton Borough Council December 8, 2009
From: Not In Our Town
Good evening. My name is Ann Yasuhara and I live at 66 Pine Street in the Borough. I am here representing Not In Our Town.
We are pleased that the Council now seems to be considering having a Public Safety Committee that will be the “appropriate authority” to which the Police Department is to report and which will be the policy making body with respect to Police Department activities.
The Council members are the persons who live among us, whom we meet on the street, and who are more likely than the Boro Administrator to have a sense of what is and is not working for the members of the community. These matters are more subtle than bureaucratic; harder to describe or write about, but very important.
Although it is not in the ordinance before us this evening, Not In Our Town urges that as part of its duties the Public Safety Committee will open up some avenues for direct communication between its members and members of the community. There needs to be a way for members of the community to sit down with that group, at least a few times a year as well as on an emergency basis, to talk about their concerns, review policy and its implementation, and consider new or different policies that address those concerns. We think that with such a structure as part of the PSC, our group as well as many individuals and other groups will feel more cared about and cared for and that such interactions will improve the facts as well as the feelings about how our community can thrive. This is not about improving image, it is about improving how we actually live our lives here.
We definitely appreciate the comments of Mr. Martindell at the last meeting that no matter how terrific the structure of oversight may be, if the people designated to do that oversight do not do the work, the terrificness will not matter. Of course it is hard work and often quite challenging. But we certainly hope that there are some among you who think it is deeply important and are willing to make it work.
Please let us not rush. Please, dear Borough Council members, take this opportunity to find a really good way to establish a Public Safety Committee that will contribute seriously to making this is a community where everyone is safe and respected.
The Borough Council finally passed the ordinance making a Public Safety Committee [composed of 2 members of the BC to be appointed by the Mayor with the consent of the Borough Council + the Mayor and the Borough Administrator – both ex-officio] to be the appropriate authority and the Borough Administrator to look after disciplinary actions.
“The Borough Council seemed very interested in involving the public in some regular fashion, yet to be determined, in their policy and investigative function,” says Ann.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between ‘being advantaged’ and ‘white privilege’. I think there is an important distinction. Being advantaged – or disadvantaged – usually is associated with having high/low socio-economic status. White privilege is something different. It is a fact that Afro-Americans are disproportionally disadvantaged and that fact is surely related to their unique historical experience – 200 years of slavery, plus 100 years of apartheid. But, that isn’t really what white privilege means. A poor, unskilled, unemployed, (disadvantaged) white workingman can still benefit from white privilege. And, a highly educated, high income, (advantaged) professional A-A woman can still suffer from ‘white privilege’.
Maybe this distinction is not that important – but I have found in conversations about race if you try to talk about the effects of the A-A historical experience, you will often get responses like “I (or my parents) came with nothing, had to struggle etc.”
I would like to get better at explaining how ‘white privilege’ is still alive in these days and that A-A persons, no matter how advantaged in socio-economic terms, are still hurt by encounters with ‘white privilege’. MT
The dialogue on race and white privilege that began this spring at the Princeton Public Library continues on first Mondays. “Continuing Conversations on Race and White Privilege is co-sponsored by Not in Our Town.
You do not need to have attended any of the sessions of the Not in Our Town series “Engaging Together to Explore White Privilege.” This will be a “drop-in” format, facilitated by members of the Princeton-based interracial and interfaith social action group.
Topics will include how we feel about the term “white privilege,” and issues relevant to our community and nation. The next sessions are December 7, January 4, and February 1 at 7:30 p.m. in the library’s conference room.
You’re never too old to learn! I’m looking forward to continuing the discussions on race and white privilege that we started at the Library on November 2.
With this post, NIOT begins a public blog. We hope the blog will help us communicate internally and externally.
A bit of history: Not In Our Town grew out of the meetings held during 1998 and 1999 by concerned members of the Unitarian-Universalist Congregation (UUC) of Princeton, the Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church (WSPC), and Nassau Presbyterian Church (NPC) to discuss problems of racial injustice in the Princeton community. The group thought it would be helpful to enlist the support of other faith congregations in order to create an interfaith organization to work together on these problems in the Princeton community.
To this end, in the fall of 1999, a letter was sent to several faith congregations inviting them to send representatives to an organizational meeting. A number of congregations responded. Those present strongly believed that, as faith community members, they had a responsibility to take a more activist role in matters relating to racial justice and reconciliation in Princeton.
As this group coalesced, it took the name Not In Our Town after a group in Billings, Montana, that had united its community to deal with several bias crimes that had occurred there. The current congregation members of NIOT are: Unitarian-Universalist Congregation, Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church (WSPC), The Jewish Center, Trinity Episcopal Church, Princeton Friends Meeting, Nassau Christian Center, Princeton United Methodist Church, and St. Paul’s Catholic Church. In the past, there has been some participation by the Islamic Society of Central Jersey, the Aquinas Foundation, Mt. Pisgah AME, Christ Congregation, Nassau Presbyterian Church and First Baptist Church.