Before Kyrsten Sinema won the Arizona Senate seat left vacant by the retirement of Jeff Flake, a Democrat had never been elected to the U.S. Senate during the previous 30 years.
Today, people have buyer’s remorse in their disappointment with Sen. Sinema. When voters awarded Democratic lawmakers control of Congress and the White House, they did so with high expectations. The hope was to have laws passed benefiting and protecting communities of color. Our single vote represents a measure of trust given to a candidate who will fight on our behalf as citizens.
There are times when the expectations are fulfilled and times when the trust is taken for granted. In Arizona, voters are upset because Sinema not only betrayed their trust but did so for financial gain. The senator’s popularity was already in decline after she voted against raising the federal minimum wage, her resistance to endorsing the Build Back Better legislation, and skipping a Senate vote to create a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. When the Arizona senator joined fellow Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia in rejecting changes to the Senate filibuster rules, the two essentially prevented the passage of voting rights legislation. One should not be surprised that Sinema attended a fundraiser with Republican donors the day before the filibuster vote. In her speech, Sinema told the mostly oil-industry attendees that “rest assured” she would not back any changes to the filibuster rules.
Sinema has been exposed as an undependable fighter for the interests impacting minority communities. That two lawmakers can stand apart and undercut the sincere efforts and work of their fellow Democratic lawmakers merits accountability and consequences. Many people have concluded that a lawmaker who is unwilling to do whatever it takes to save democracy warrants being voted out of office. The same conclusions and consequences are needed for lawmakers who have no urgency in protecting and saving Black and brown children who are adversely impacted by crime and gun violence.
You simply cannot expect a child to live in a warzone and ignore the lasting harm to the child. Every night somewhere across the nation, there are traumatized children and young adults dealing with the constant sound of gunfire, sirens, searchlights, and the noise from surveillance helicopters, in addition to bearing witness to the actual violence. Gun violence disproportionately impacts minority children and families living in poverty. It is not just a law enforcement issue, but a public health crisis where children exposed to trauma have higher rates of anger, anxiety, depression, desensitization to violence, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Without the proper intervention, traumatized youths and young adults become perpetrators, and the cycle never ends. It takes a committed public policy and community effort to offset the systemic racism limiting equitable opportunities. No one person or organization can solve the problem. It must be a strategic and coordinated effort that addresses crime prevention measures, community policing, job training, drug rehabilitation, access to technology, public transportation, and reentry. The key is having elected officials who truly understand the complexities of the solution and remain sensitive to the human costs.
In 2017, DaVonte Friedman went before members of the Baltimore City Council to present youth violence prevention. He spoke from experience because he understood the struggles of growing up in tough neighborhoods. His was a success story in the making. Despite having earlier run-ins with police, he turned himself around and received his GED, and completed a leadership program that gave him the opportunity to speak to local city officials. When asked what he wanted for his 18th birthday, he told his mother, “I’m glad I made it to see 18.” Days after his birthday, the 18-year-old was killed in a triple shooting. Unfortunately, every urban area has a DaVonte Friedman. Those who fight the odds don’t always make it. Every city and state government has a Kyrsten Sinema-like official who was put into office and trusted to serve but stands in the way of progress, unwilling to fight at any cost for communities of color.
David W. Marshall is the founder of the faith-based organization, TRB: The Reconciled Body, and author of the book God Bless Our Divided America. He can be reached at www.davidwmarshallauthor.com.