By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
It’s been over a week since Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man was shot in the back seven times by a Kenosha police officer. Since then, Wisconsin has seen a plethora of visitors – some with good intentions and some decidedly less so. Among those who came to the state was Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden.
Biden came to Kenosha on Thursday, Sept. 3. While there he heard from Kenosha residents at Grace Lutheran Church.
Tim Thompkins, a former marine and Kenosha resident, was one of the pre-selected speakers for the event.
“What I like to talk about, which is occurring in Wisconsin is something that is an American issue and that is race and equality,” Thompkins said. “We need to move beyond the conversation of programs. We need to start putting money behind the programs and putting things into action.”
Thompkins noted that Ben Gordon from the NAACP said that the problems are known, but now it is time to put the money behind the solutions. Wisconsin is considered the worst place to live as a person of color, Thompkins said, citing the unemployment rate, housing and education gaps as some of the reasons.
Angela Cunningham, an attorney at ADC Law Office in Kenosha, also spoke. She said the Sunday afternoon Blake got shot is something she will never forget. After watching the video, Cunningham knew that protests and rioting would follow.
Cunningham is also a mother to a 20-year-old Black son. When news of the shooting broke, Cunningham’s mother reached out to make sure he was ok.
“Mr. Vice President, as an attorney, I know legally why a lot of officers who kill Black men and women are not held legally responsible – criminally legally responsible for their actions – because the law protects them,” Cunningham said. “I recognize that, and I know that – I don’t agree with that, but I recognize that. I hope that if and when you are elected president that is something your administration chooses to try to address.”
The laws protect police officers, she said. Cunningham acknowledged that a lot of the laws are made at the state level but asked Biden that if something could be done at the federal level to do it.
After the initial four speakers, Biden took a few minutes to address the crowd and the concerns brought up by the four speakers.
“The words of a president matter,” Biden said. “No matter if they’re good, bad or indifferent, they matter.”
Biden said he made a mistake in thinking that hate could be defeated. It only hides, he said, until someone of authority brings it back to life, which encourages others to come forward with their hate.
“I hadn’t planned on running again after my son died, till I saw those people coming out of Charlottesville carrying torches,” he said.
After hearing President Donald Trump’s response the events in Charlottesville, Biden decided to run. Not all of this is Trump’s fault, Biden said, but his words legitimize the dark side of human nature.
What happened exposed the underlying and institutionalized racism, Biden said. It still exists and has existed for 400 years, but now the curtain has been pulled back and the opportunity is here to do a lot of positive things.
“I am not pessimistic, I am optimistic about the opportunity if we seize it,” Biden said.