PHOENIX — On Sunday, while demonstrators marched in the streets of Phoenix, Governor Doug Ducey met with faith leaders from across the Valley, looking for a way to deal with issues of race in Arizona.
This afternoon, I met with faith and community leaders to listen and discuss how Arizona and our country can move forward together. I’m grateful for their time. It was a frank, open and honest conversation, and we need more of them. pic.twitter.com/45kcWa2nEC— Doug Ducey (@dougducey) June 1, 2020
By some accounts, the meeting didn't go so well.
Pastor Redeem Robinson of the Ebenezer Church in Phoenix said, "It just seemed like it was a meeting to say, 'I spoke to the black leaders.' It was something to cross off his check list. I didn't see any sincerity in it."
Dr. Warren H. Stewart, Sr., pastor of the First Institutional Baptist Church in Phoenix who helped arrange the meeting for the governor, was even more critical.
"I don't know if the governor understands systemic racism. He suffers from white privilege," Dr. Stewart said.
The Governor's Office said the 90-minute meeting centered around issues of racial justice and ways Arizona and the country can move forward together.
"The governor was really clear racism exists and racism is a sin," the Rt. Reverend Jennifer A. Reddall VI Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona said. "But he is not ready to say racism is systematic or institutionalized."
Pastor Robinson said the meeting was very emotional. "We are very tired of police killing our people," he said. "The governor's response was just nonchalant."
A spokesman for the Governor's Office described the meeting as an honest and frank conversation. But for faith leaders, the conversation only went so far.
"I think he recognized there could be consequences among some of his constituents if he said yes, he believes racism is systemic," Bishop Reddall said. "But what I look for in leaders is courage. I want him and other leaders to have the courage to recognize that racism is systemic and institutionalized, particularly around policing, that black and brown people have dramatically different experiences with police than white people do."
The governor says he wants to continue the dialogue.