On Dec. 22, I held a meeting with Mayor Gregg Hull. I am happy to announce that after our last discussion, he has decided to stand up a Diversity Committee.  This will be step on toward opening up Rio Rancho’s eyes to the racism that exists in this area. I recently took the Rio Rancho Citizens Academy 101 course.  It was held via zoom, of course, with the pandemic.

During one of my classes, Deputy Police Chief Paul Rogers (since retired) was explaining to us what the Rio Rancho Police Department role was.  Police Chief Stewart Steele was also in the class. When I asked the question, “What would you tell a Black child who is scared of the police?” I was met with the familiar phrases such as, “We do not see any racism problem here.” My standard answer for this is, “You wouldn’t, because you’re not Black.”

As the conversation continued, Chief Steele left the call without so much as a goodbye. His abrupt departure did not go unnoticed by classmates and I. I assure you that there is plenty of racism here in Rio Rancho. I have faced it head on. Now do not get me wrong; I fully understand that our Mayor Hull can in no way change the hearts and minds of every racist here, but when these racists are teachers, employers, realtors, healthcare workers, etc., then for me, this is the problem of the city. We can only begin to dismantle systemic racism by acknowledging first that it exists and then educating people on the biases that they hold within themselves. We must draw the line when it comes to private citizens exercises their jobs with biases that affect the lives of Black people and people of color.

I have listened to the stories of Black children who said they were stopped in Cabezon and a lady who was one of the first Black residents here in Rio Rancho.  She revealed that if she knew it was this racist, she would have never moved here. This should not be the norm for my city, for our city. Rio Rancho has the unique opportunity to set the example of how to be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to its Black residents and people of color.

As I always say, if I’m uncomfortable, then we should all be uncomfortable –n and I’m uncomfortable. I have started programs to assist our houseless members here in Rio Rancho who are being ignored and will continue to fight against racism and all social injustice issues.

I would like to thank my allies who have joined me in the fight to dismantle systemic racism. Those who acknowledge that their white privilege exists and who are doing their part everyday to be the example this city needs. I am still here making waves everyday in the name of change and equality. The fight continues!

Barbara Jordan

Founder, PRESS (People Requiring Equality w/in Systemic Systems/New Mexico)