SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — As we recognize and celebrate Black history, the way the country thinks about race has changed by the death of George Floyd in 2020. Last May, Sioux Falls saw its own big demonstration for Floyd. Laura Chandler and Julian Beaudion each spoke at the march.
“I think Sioux Falls is forever changed by what happened that day,” Chandler said. “I don’t think that you bring together 5,000 people to march through the streets of downtown Sioux Falls and it not impact the community.”
Some impact, of course, is internal.
“I think what’s important about it is that the work, it doesn’t stay in the streets, right?” Chandler said. “Like it begins there, but then you move into self-reflection and action, and I’ve seen that taking place a lot here in Sioux Falls.”
“There’s been more curiosity,” Beaudion said.
Beaudion, a law enforcement officer, brings up recent developments in Pierre when asked about improvements.
“We tried to create some legislative change around natural hair for Black people and people of color, and then also create some legislative change around the holiday of Juneteenth which is the Black freedom day, it’s the day that we celebrate our freedom from slavery,” Beaudion said. “And there was a huge fight against both of those bills.”
Senate Bill 89, which would have given Juneteenth the distinction of being a state holiday, and Senate Bill 90, which addressed hair and racial discrimination, were both killed. Still, Beaudion is looking forward.
“The action is definitely there, and like I said before, action for me is much more than just conversation, and so I’m excited to see what’s to come,” Beaudion said.
“The awareness that we’ve seen in the community and people’s willingness to say, ‘I’m not really comfortable talking about this, I don’t, I’m afraid of saying the wrong thing, but I still realize how important it is to bring attention to some of these issues,'” Chandler said. “I see that as progress. And I think many people are making efforts to really change what representation looks like in their communities and their organizations.”
Chandler had been director of the Center for Diversity and Community at USD. But come March 5, she’ll be vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta.
“One thing that I would just like to caution is that be sure that the things that people are doing don’t serve as a replacement for accountability,” Chandler said. “What happened to George Floyd wasn’t just about racism or inequality in general. It was a very specific kind of systemic inequality and racism that exists within law enforcement agencies.”
One enduring question deals with change.
Dan Santella: How does a person who comes from a position of privilege, who is not a person of color, how can they help make things better?
“So sometimes it’s, it may be the thing that you are least likely to think of, and that’s listening, right?” Chandler said. “When you’re aware of a problem or issue or you just become aware of that problem or issue, you want to immediately take action and get involved. And sometimes you can do more harm, right, if you take that action without doing that internal self-reflection, understanding your own biases and privileges.”
“We’ve gained so many more allies throughout the community that it’s, it has benefited us not just in conversation, but when we talk about engaging with legislators to make sure that we have policy change, talking with the mayor to make sure that we’re doing things the right way in our police department,” Beaudion said.