Lenox — Our nation is hurting. Last week we saw yet another horrific instance of a police officer killing a black man in America. The protests that have occurred across our nation are ultimately the culmination of pain, anger and injustice that people of color in America have faced for centuries.
Though we must condemn any violence and looting that have occurred, we must also acknowledge that the individuals conducting these acts of violence are a small minority who do not represent the true message, spirit and peaceful demonstrations of the protests as a whole. These protests are not merely in reaction to a single occurrence, but they are in response to decades of unjust police practices and centuries of discrimination.
As we have witnessed over the years, these occurrences of police brutality are not isolated instances or simply the lone actions of individual officers. They are the results of systems and cultures that have been created and built upon for decades. The officer who killed George Floyd had 18 prior complaints filed against him, only two of which were closed with discipline. We wish to support our police officers, but we wish to do so because it is their duty to protect and serve our communities. This man is sadly another example of a police officer who felt entitled to abuse his responsibility to his community and instead use his position of influence for evil.
This sense of entitlement was created from a culture and system that never held him accountable and led him to believe he could unjustly harm a person of color without consequence. Though he certainly does not represent the majority of our law enforcement officers, who choose to become public servants out of genuine love and care for their communities, the fact remains that these toxic cultures and broken systems exist across these United States. The responsibility is on all of our shoulders to change them.
The Constitution of the United States begins with the following words: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” All of us as Americans have an obligation to strive for the creation of a more perfect Union. Our founders made perfectly clear that our Union can only be made more perfect when we seek justice, tranquility and welfare for all. We fail as citizens of these United States if we ignore injustice that falls upon any of our fellow Americans. It is the responsibility of all of us, regardless of where we live or the color of our skin, to make this ideal a reality. Our thoughts, words, actions and values collectively create the cultures and systems that form this more perfect Union. Our citizenship does not entitle us to complicity and comfort, but it instead obligates us to create a country and world that are better than how we found them.
An affront to all
Now it is no secret that discrimination affects some and not others, and that actions of unjust policing occur more frequently in some areas more than others. Regardless of how often they happen in our particular communities or whether or not we are individually the victims of discrimination, racial injustice is an affront to all of us as Americans and human beings.
It is vitally important for those of us who have not been affected by racial discrimination and oppression to be the allies of those who are. The first thing an ally needs to do is listen to the voices and try to understand the experiences of those who face these injustices. It is only when we first listen that we can truly advocate for and create the changes in our nation that need to happen. After we listen, we must then take action by voting and making it known that we will no longer stand for unjust status quos that harm and oppress our fellow Americans.
Racism is our country’s original sin because it goes against our greatest strength: our diversity. American exceptionalism is not based on skin color or place of birth. It is based on our common value that people from all races, beliefs and walks of life can come together and create a better society than has ever before existed. What is unique about our call to create a more perfect Union is that this work is never finished. We can never be perfect, but we can always be better. It is our duty and responsibility to strive to be better as individuals and as a society. This task begins anew every day. Let’s get to work.