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Auburn/Cayuga NAACP: Cayuga County legislator should resign over BLM comments
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Auburn/Cayuga NAACP: Cayuga County legislator should resign over BLM comments

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President of the Auburn/Cayuga County NAACP and Auburn school board member Eli Hernandez speaks during a June 6 bdemonstration of solidarity for racial justice at the NYS Equal Rights Heritage Center in Auburn.

The Auburn/Cayuga Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) condemns the recent comments made by Legislator Andrew Dennison and calls for his immediate resignation from office. In a time when our country is experiencing political and racial unrest, elected officials should carry themselves with respect for the citizens they represent. They should join with those citizens to author hope and to be about the work of systemic change.

In a letter to the editor, Cato’s elected legislator Andrew Dennison shared his true divisive beliefs. The language and outbursts are unbecoming of an elected official.

At a time when the City of Auburn and Cayuga County are featured in “Good Morning America” as an example of peaceful protests and demonstrations, Legislator Dennison chooses to promote hate and disunity by calling Cayuga County residents “idiots” and stating that Black lives do not matter.

In his letter, Legislator Dennison recklessly disseminates false information, relying on some of the worst racist tropes that have plagued our nation since the days of slavery and Jim Crow. He paints African Americans as a monolith of criminal violence and as a threat to White society.

He makes no mention of the universally peaceful demonstrations in Cayuga County or the ongoing collaborative work with local law enforcement (perhaps because he has been entirely absent from these productive conversations). He reports incorrect statistics (police fatally shot 14 Black people in 2019, not nine), fails to mention that Black Americans are killed by police at more than twice the rate of White Americans and ignores the fact that these numbers do not include the many Black Americans killed by beating, tasering, or other means (meaning George Floyd’s death would not even count). When citing the tragic number of police officers feloniously killed in 2019 (48, not 50), he fails to mention that a police officer is, according to FBI data, more likely to be killed by a White person. Furthermore, in speaking of community crime, he ignores the fact that White people commit crimes against other White people at almost identical rates, these instances of community violence having nothing to do with race and everything to do with proximity.

Legislator Dennison wrongly assumes that, because people care about Black lives, people do not also care about police lives or other forms of violence. Leaders have been talking about systemic violence in all forms for a very long time; Legislator Dennison just hasn’t been listening. Moreover, he misrepresents the Black Lives Matter argument, which challenges not only police brutality but also the lack of accountability. As Reese Waters and Randolph Terrance Sturdivant write, “When a black person commits a crime against another black person, or a white person against another white person, and so forth, that person faces justice — something that happens less than one percent of the time when the perpetrator is a cop.” The real scourge on this nation is that White people in positions of authority can discriminate, disenfranchise, and kill Black Americans with impunity — a scourge Legislator Dennison is apparently unwilling to address.

His letter is merely the latest in a matrix of attitudes, behaviors, and actions that make it unsafe for Black and Brown families to live in peace in this county.

Mr. Dennison calls on “our elected officials at all levels” to take a stand. Likewise, the Auburn/Cayuga NAACP wants to know where our elected officials stand on issues of race and prejudice. Therefore, the NAACP calls on all elected officials from all levels in Cayuga County to defend its citizens by standing up against hate and addressing structural racism.

The NAACP demands the County Legislature to take immediate action and review its policies on misconduct and misrepresentation of its community by elected officials. If the Legislature does not have such policies, it needs to implement them immediately.

Furthermore, the NAACP calls on the Legislature to develop and implement policies that prevent county elected legislators from inciting racist division and promulgating harm to Black and Brown people. The policy should not tolerate Mr. Dennison’s behavior and should include removal from office. No longer should any elected leader have permission to engage in such brazen race-baiting. The alarm has been sounded, and your time is up… Resign.

Finally, the NAACP calls on the residents of Cayuga County to stand together and denounce hate.

We believe Cayuga County is better than this. Let’s start acting like it.

Hernandez is President, Auburn/Cayuga Branch NAACP

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