Black Lives Matter Utah: Q&A with Rae Duckworth
Following the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks and, horrifically, many more Black people and people of color, Salt Lake City accompanied cities around the world in taking to the the streets in protest and unwavering demand for an end to racism and police brutality. In conjunction with offering support and education about how our readers can help in the search for justice and equality, SLUG Magazine interviewed Black Lives Matter Utah volunteer Rae Duckworth to speak to the organization’s stance on these issues and how we can work together for change and reform.
SLUG: What’s a brief history of Black Lives Matter Utah, and what are its goals?
Rae Duckworth: Lex Scott [Editorial Note: Lex Scott is incorrectly referred to as Lex Smith in the print edition of this article] created the Black Lives Matter Utah Chapter about six years ago. I met her in January/February of 2019 and, unfortunately, created a stronger bond after my cousin Bobby Duckworth was shot and killed by police. Its goals are to promote change and remind the community that people of color are valued society members, and people of color deserve equality in Utah.
SLUG: How can allies become better allies when the safety and dignity of Black community members isn’t at the forefront of the national dialogue? That is, how should people help in the everyday as a constant?
Duckworth: Be aware of systemic racism and how it affects Black people and people of color, listen to Black stories and people of color’s stories, [and] be a positive addition to the movement. Stand up against systemic racism. Be an active ally when you see or hear racism or racist ideology in the act.
SLUG: How can we become better allies during this crucial time of need?
Duckworth: Talk to your loved ones and children, and let them know what is going on in the world. Educate the next generation on these issues. Correct your loved ones and family members if their acts are making you uncomfortable and are examples of racism. Be open when listening to people’s experiences of encountering racism.
SLUG: While systemic racism affects Black communities and communities of color in myriad ways, what are some immediate reforms needed apropos of redlining, community funding or otherwise that could help to give relief to Black communities in Utah?
Duckworth: POLICE REFORM – If we can discuss police reform, hold police accountable for their actions, and allow the community to have a review board, it would open the door for the community to be involved in justifying cases and also would put the proper pressure on police to use de-escalation training and less/non-lethal weapons before [resorting] to using a gun.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM – People of color are given harder punishment for lesser crimes versus their white counterparts. There are studies and stats to prove this over time, and no one has taken an initiative to correct the justice system for its mistakes. Call your local representatives and bring these issues up, question them [and] ask them what active steps [they’re] taking to get these bills passed. VOTE.
SLUG: How would such reforms help to lessen police presence among Black community members/those who are vulnerable to police/police violence?
Duckworth: Police presence isn’t the whole issue. Law enforcement needs to uphold the constitution and protect our civil and human rights. Police take an oath to protect and serve, and we need to hold them to that standard.
SLUG: How are politicians held accountable with regard to police violence? What remains to be instated?
Duckworth: Punishing politicians who we put in office isn’t a route I’d like to take. If we vote these people into office, they should reflect our decisions and our communities.
SLUG: What does Black Lives Matter Utah want to see in the way of more intersectional spaces in Utah as a whole?
Duckworth: Equal representation from politics to neighborhoods, schools, teachers and staff, employees and employers. Equal representation is a missing factor in most cases, and it enables us to lose understanding.
SLUG: For those who may not be able to demonstrate peacefully in person, what strategies do you suggest for those who may be homebound due to quarantine or other reasons?
Duckworth: Start by educating those in your home, those who you value and love. If we educate our homes and teach compassion towards others, it truly will start to heal the community as a whole. The Black Lives Matter Utah webpage also has additional information on how to support the chapter.
SLUG: Are there any aspects of amplifying Black voices and supporting Black causes that are unique to Utah? If so, what are they; if not, what are strategies to support both our Utah-based Black community members and the overall cause of Black community members throughout the nation?
Duckworth: Support comes in all shapes and sizes. On a local level, shop Black-owned businesses, and people-of-color businesses, especially after the Coronavirus pandemic. On a national level, call your leaders and ask for real change. Ask them to listen to communities that are mostly affected by police brutality. Vote.
SLUG: With elections nearing, what should voters know as far as what may be on ballots (candidates or otherwise) that affects the issues that Black Lives Matter engages?
Duckworth: Voters need to research candidates and everything presented on ballots. Voters need to educate themselves on the community’s agenda and the candidates.
SLUG: How would you advise white and non-Black allies to contribute to Black Lives Matter meetings without taking space away from Black community members?
Duckworth: Black Lives Matter is a safe place for all of our local communities. We promote and encourage supporters to attend meetings, to learn and listen to our local community leaders and follow leadership.
SLUG: How do you feel about social media’s role in recent events regarding protests and sharing information?
Duckworth: Like anything and everything, there is good and bad. It’s great people are talking about it and sharing facts and information regarding the movement, but the bad shows, too. We just want to focus on the message and not let it get lost in the riots and violence.
SLUG: How would you describe proper social media etiquette to non-Black allies of color and white allies when it comes to spreading useful information to our communities?
Duckworth: Always be respectful. Always be open, because we never know what someone has experienced or is experiencing. Show compassion to your fellow man and support them. Be diplomatic with your responses.
To learn more about how you can support Black Lives Matter Utah, visit blacklivesmatterutah.com.