CASPER, Wyo —A few more than a dozen citizens gathered Sunday, April 25 evening in downtown Casper for a “silent vigil for peace,”
After a March down David Street to the Hall of Justice, the leaders delivered their message: racism — both structural and amongst individuals— is alive and well in America and in Casper.
“There’s always been a lot of racism in this city, and it’s not stopping,” said R.C. Johnson, a speech therapist for the elderly in Casper, during her address.
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“We have had a young woman in our public schools who received this…” Johnson said, and copies of the message were passed around. It paired of an image of KKK members and text that celebrated the group’s racist sentiments, complete with a slur.
“And our school resource officers could not find a way to address this,” Johnson said. “Look at what that does to a student, and the stress that it puts on a person. You have all of this going on constantly in Casper. Let’s not be silent.”
Johnson also referenced the “monumental judgement” in the conviction of ex-Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin this week in the killing of George Floyd last year.
Johnson said that decision was supposed to be “an inflection point” in the “pattern” of unarmed Black men being killed by police.
“But the day after the man was convicted, there was another murder of another Black man. So now we have to ask, what is policing supposed to be about?”
Johnson said there were “two tracks of policing in America,” one for whites and one for Blacks. She later pointed out the harsher sentences for crack cocaine versus powdered cocaine (the former used disproportionately in Black communities) as an example.
“Maybe what we don’t need is a police department, but a ‘department of public safety’.”
Jimmy Simmons, Vice President of the Pikes Peak Southern Christian Leadership Conference and former head of the Casper branch of the NAACP, began his talk by illustrating the broader impact of discrimination.
“On Friday, a 12-year-old [white] boy committed suicide in Colorado Springs. His peers kept referring to him as a racist.”
“This new revolution must start in the heart, that would lead to reconciliation and not revenge,” Simmons said.
Simmons told Oil City News Friday his movement was looking for institutional changes, such as eliminating qualified immunity for police officers and supporting federal investigations into structural racism in school districts, banking, and housing.
“Because of racism, 60% of black wealth was lost in this country between ten years ago and 12 years ago,” he said Sunday. “Only 3% of the loans are made to Blacks in this country. We are being hunted and killed without having a weapon.”
He expressed doubt that justice would come from the institutions built by “former slave masters.”
“Because when you when you live in another man’s land, under another man’s flag, under another man’s government, and under another man’s court system, you have to look to that other man for justice,” Simmons said. “And you will never get it.”
“This why the new cities are being built in Africa, in Ghana, in Senegal… and south of Macon, Georgia, to give Black people the option to live outside of this racism. Some say it can’t be fixed, so they have the option of moving to somewhere else.” Simmons said.
“Dr. [Martin Luther King] once said, ‘We must live together as brothers, or we will die together as fools.'”