I have tried to put my feelings and thoughts into words for the last week, starting and stopping…because I am exhausted, I am heartbroken, I am in pain. So, this statement comes a bit “late” but it took me this time to muster up the energy and strength to do so.
After days of helicopters hovering over my south side neighborhood, watching black business owners cleaning the shattered glass on the sidewalks in front of their stores, trying to comfort my black brothers and sisters experiencing extreme and profound pain and fear for their existence while trying not to break down myself and struggling to breath, hearing my own nine-year-old child ask confused and terrified “So, he was killed because of just ten dollars?,” it is time to move to action before the events of the last week become yet another memory, another set of hashtags, all to be relived again a week or a month from now.
The black life experience is a fight for survival every day. Being black in this country is deadly every day and in more than one way. What community has its children singing, begging, screaming, asking whether they can live a full life? And while I appreciate the wave of “solidarity statements” from Fortune 500 companies, organizations, and even public officials, we have been here before. So many times.
In my opinion, the reason for that is that we are not getting at the root of the issue. The system is not broken. The system was never made for
black lives. Even though this country was built on our backs and its economy sustained by our lives, literally and figuratively, the plan was never for these black lives to participate equally and fully in the grand American plan. The pandemic has made that blatantly clear even more: black lives are dispensable. The list of those killed by the various systems keeps growing, the outcry and statements keep posting, the protests and criminal trials begin. Repeat. Same story, different week.
The most recent set of killings – Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd – and the ensuing reactions make me want to caution all of us of being stuck on or buying into the narrative of the “one bad apple” cop, the rogue white supremacist/racist neighbor, and focusing on police accountability as the “main fix.” Believing that these injustices and murders are done by rogue singular actors left unchecked by their departments or a “misguided” civilian using state laws such as “civilian arrest” or “standing your ground” is not only an incomplete construct but a deflection attempting to divert our focus from looking at the underlying cause behind it all, the man behind the curtain so to speak. The true root is the system – criminal justice, education, housing, health care – and, most importantly, the very foundation and framework on which this country was built.
The American dream was that of and for white Americans. The American life and promise was formed for the enjoyment and experience of white Americans…but all those fundamental “American” things were built by Blacks and the status quo is sustained by our second class citizen status to date. These systems were built to maintain power and wealth for some at the expense of others, built on the lives, backs, sweat, and blood of others from the inception of this country’s existence.
As horrific and devastating as the COVID-19 pandemic has been for this country and the entire globe, it has made these fundamental injustices and inequities even more blatant although they have been in existence for centuries. The pandemic has forced us to pause and exist in new and different ways across all facets of life. If this country refuses to use this “reset” moment to take an honest and hard look at itself and acknowledge the systemic historic disenfranchisement and absence of respect for black lives, we will keep repeating the current and similar moments over and over again.
To those for whom these systems were built and to whom the systems will listen and react to – White Americans and other people of color – speak now, demand acknowledgement and accountability from all levels of government, not just in the realm of police accountability or criminal justice but across all of life’s aspects. The voices of Blacks is muffled, sometimes silenced completely, so you, allies, must speak louder now, not just mumble or “stand in solidarity” with us on social media. Demand that your local councils, your mayors, your governors, representatives and senators sit face to face with the black community and demand that all levels of government acknowledge and account for the centuries of killings, hardship, and struggle black people have endured at the hands of the government. This would be the time for cities and states to implement steps of recognition and redress.
Speak Truth is currently working on its “Reset” Agenda which seeks to bring together black people and allies to provide thought-leadership in areas such as the response to the pandemic, policing, education, health care, the political process, and others, and to provide concrete action items for individuals but also communities and government on all levels.
The cycle of all forms of violence against people of color, and specifically black people, must stop now. We cannot “return to normal” but must create a better “now.”
Over the next days, we will share other resources and platforms engaging in similar efforts, so subscribe to our newsletter and/or follow us on social media to stay connected.
If you would like to join this collaborative effort and take part in the “Reset” Agenda initiative, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.