Either Gov. Ron DeSantis kept a campaign promise, owed a political favor or bowed to political pressure from the families who lost loved ones during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting massacre in Parkland in removing former Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel from elected office.
In no way am I downplaying the tragedy that happened in Parkland but I would like to examine how the families used their political clout to force Israel out of office. Did the families of Parkland have enough political clout to sway the voters of Broward County to initiate a recall petition to remove Israel and vote him out of office? If this shootings had taken place at Boyd Anderson High School, Fort Lauderdale Dillard High School or Pompano Ely High School, would Israel still be the sheriff of Broward County today?
In the last seven years we have had an enormous loss of life of young Black boys and men due to shootings in Goulds, Richmond Heights, Naranja, Perrine, Homestead, Florida City, Miami Gardens, Opa-locka, Overtown, Liberty City and Brownsville yet our elected officials have remained in office cozy and comfortable, as if they have no care in the world. But all it took was one shooting massacre to happen in Parkland and their community responded with a vigilant “enough-is-enough” campaign. There have been several shootings in the Black community and all we have seen at funerals are families weeping and sobbing uncontrollably, because their loved ones have been killed. It took the killing of three young men in Liberty Square in April 2018 to finally get the community outraged, but that turned out to be an embarrassingly low-energy campaign that fizzled out fast.
It has been consistently pointed out that Black people should make our votes count by going to the polls and voting for elected officials who are going to represent our interests. Unfortunately, elected officials have been looking out for their own interests, while we continue to reward them for their inaction to keep our streets safe, our workforce thriving and our children well-educated. So, of all the questions that I have about the Florida Senate’s vote to uphold the governor’s suspension of Israel, I guess the burning question that I have is: Was the Parkland standard of response the correct one, or is the Black community’s typical response to gun violence the one that Parkland parents should have adopted?
We all know that the Parkland standard is the one that we should have adopted decades ago when babies like Rickia Isaac or King Carter were gunned down in the streets of Liberty City. When Parkland students were invited to Liberty Square to coalesce about gun violence, it wasn’t to teach Parkland students on how to respond, but to learn from them.
How foolish we must look to have allowed our elected officials to sit dormant for decades and then cash out on our tragedies with crime-based “emergency relocations” of hundreds of residents, multi-million dollar redevelopments with dog parks and pet clinics – signaling gentrification from a mile away.
In psychology, there is a persuasion technique known as an “Appeal to Authority.” This technique says that people award instant credibility to anyone who is in a position of authority and, as a result, that person’s statements and actions are regarded as those of a certified expert. In politics, this technique has crushed the Black community because we have ignored the obvious disenfranchisement, discrimination and murder of our people in favor of the expert politicians, who now blame the people themselves for the drug, gun and gang-infested neighborhoods that are ground-zero for investors to cash out – big.
Aside from the fact that Parkland’s response was radical, persistent, committed and successful, there’s still the matter of whether it was fair. Perhaps DeSantis wouldn’t have removed Israel over how the Broward Sheriff’s Office handled a mass shooting at a public school with predominantly Black students. Then Israel would still be Sheriff today. And the Black parents would live in agony as we do, every day.
And maybe if elected officials knew that heads would roll in the aftermath of murder, regardless of where it happens, we would understand (no matter how unfair to Israel) how serious we are about our children’s safety. And maybe if we get serious about our children, our economy and our land, we’ll elect politicians who’ll respect the will of voters, and not themselves.
Israel is a good man who likely would have handled Parkland differently had he been there personally. And if he’s re-elected in 2020, there may be a familiar face in office but you can bet that they’ll be a brand new sheriff in town.