The murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Walter Scott, Michael Brown, Ariane McCree, Sean Reed, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner and 74 other black men and boys in recent years have become to regular in our news cycle and social media feeds. Police brutality, hate and superiority caused these lives to end far too soon. It is not lost on me that my encounter with law enforcement, neighborhoods I’ve jogged, or affluent communities I’ve walked could have resulted in my name being on this list. The reality is my sons, and I are profiled. We must go beyond following orders and be extra careful in hopes to stay alive.
The uproar that has forced everyone to take notice must be more than a hashtag. It will take a movement for tangible changes to occur and committed people to see it through. Such a sacrifice will require those accustomed to being in control and those that have adapted to confront the harsh reality that business as usual can’t be no more. Good law enforcement must stop bad law enforcement. Sentencing guidelines that favor those who are guilty, but wealthy more than those that are poor and innocent must change. It will take more than holding hands, singing “We Shall Overcome” for meaningful change to happen. It will take more than situational empathy to correct systemic injustices. Such a movement requires bold legislative action, swift executive action and sustained economic and educational solutions at every level.
Delayed implementation in the results of a police audit, not allowing a transparent police audit and not sharing and reporting data on police officers behaviors and disciplinarian actions cannot be acceptable any longer. Having more inclusion in diversity and inclusion means having conscious black people involved in the decision-making process. We can’t reverse gentrification, but we can provide equitable pathways for persistent poverty communities and individuals to better their trajectory now. Having a new agenda calls for well-intentioned people that have been spectators to sacrifice their comfort, status and membership to level the playing field by eliminating the barriers, changing the laws, and denouncing racist and bias policies and sentiments that have aided and abetted a culture and system that has brought us pain, anger and despair.
I am under no illusion that police reform, criminal justice reform and the mindset that my complexion is a threat to some will change in short order. The Civil Rights Movement, by some accounts, lasted 14 years and we continue to march on the long road to freedom. Yet, the journey of a thousand steps still begins with one.
My steps are to correct injustice where I sit and seek to stand, lift the voices of those that can’t be heard and press upon mediocre thinkers that a street name, park, holiday and title are not the mountain tops. Fight and demand for systematic changes in the root causes of problems rather than argue over who has suffered more. Stand guard to prevent Jim Crow and Willie Lynch grandchildren and great-grandchildren from making America great again. And instill in my children that they too have a responsibility to make this a more perfect union.
What will your steps be, and what will our collective actions be? This goes beyond more training. Some people shouldn’t be able to hide behind a uniform. How many more recordings are needed of black people being murdered by those that are to serve and protect? How many more people living in poverty need to exist until they have affordable and accessible healthcare? How many kids need to fall behind in learning until all homes have affordable and accessible internet? What more is needed to acknowledge that a reckless President of the United States has caused a restless and polarized society? By answering these questions for yourself, I hope you do something meaningful in solidarity. As for me and my house, my steps are ordered and choice clear. This is personal because my life, the life of my two boys, the life of family members and dear friends depends on it.
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