I must respond to Mayor Michael Brennan’s comments at the Gathering for Justice on Nov. 25 and the March to End Violence on Sunday.

At the Nov. 25 event, he recalled the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary and pointed to strides the city of Portland has made in combating gun violence.

On Sunday, he discussed the education achievement gap between black and white students and its impact on economic disparities.

His talking points were confusing at best. At worst, they revealed willful ignorance of the problem that is staring us all in the face.

I agree that we must have sensible gun reform. I agree that opportunity gaps affecting marginalized students must be addressed. But I cannot fathom how the Sandy Hook tragedy could be linked to the epidemic of police violence against black and brown bodies in America.

And while there are powerful connections to be made between our school systems and racialized violence (the widespread defunding of public schools, the national trend toward resegregation, the school-to-prison pipeline, the lack of curricula centering on histories of people of color), he made none.

Black and brown men, women and children are being murdered by police because of deeply rooted, state-sanctioned, systemic racism. It is not due to the status of our citizen gun laws. It is not due to some imagined lack of initiative among black youth. The honor roll cannot render black children bulletproof.

Brennan’s hesitancy to speak directly to the issue at hand, his white silence, is complicity in this racist system.

These demonstrations are precious opportunities to hear clear, resounding voices from Portland’s black communities about the devastating impact of systemic racism and the urgent need to take action here and now. At the next rally, I hope the mayor chooses to listen rather than speak.

Amy Gaidis