Image courtesy of Miami Herald
Like many in our community, I am disheartened by the death of George Floyd. Even in this time, where neighbors and communities are supporting and helping each other, we continue to see evidence of the failures of our nation to coalesce around basic ideas of justice and responsibility.
“We are all in this together” is the clarion call being used in response to the COVID-19 crisis. However, the phrase only applies to some, leaving out communities of color in America. Instead of recognizing unity in the country, the phrase reminds us that people of color are more often the exception to this nation’s promise.
The harsh reality of being black in America has been brought into sharp focus as headlines across the country and local news stations replay horrific stories of what is happening to us in our own country. We often hear about the rise in violence against unarmed black men; but this is neither new nor an outlier phenomenon. Many say that without the technological advances that make video possible, crimes like these would go unnoticed.
Still, there was video in the cases of: Rodney King (1991), Oscar Grant III (2009), Eric Garner (2014), Tamir Rice (2014), Walter Scott (2015), Philando Castile (2016), Sean Reed (2020), Ahmaud Arbery (2020), and George Floyd (2020). One would expect that with the benefit of video evidence of these crimes, justice would be served, but that would be too simple. Unfortunately, that is not how the criminal-justice system addresses crimes against black and brown people.
Time and again, video evidence is just not enough, it takes the angry voices of multitudes before those who mete out justice hear us. Our pain is diminished, and our voices are muted by the institutional knee on our collective necks. This is how it feels to be black in America.
Consequently, fires have erupted across the country as protesters of all races have unmuted their voices through acts of protest — the “language of the unheard,” as Martin Luther King Jr. observed.
In the past month, we have been bombarded with an array of racially charged events that ended with the deaths of innocent people at the hands of law-enforcement officers, or former officers. Because of this, we all know the names of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and, now, George Floyd. We must add theirs to the list of unnecessary deaths caused by the thoughtlessness directed at black lives, which remains pervasive in our society.
We are reminded of the myriad occurrences of false accusations that have occurred since slavery that, centuries later, continue to endanger to the lives of black men, who are painted unilaterally as menaces to society. The pervasiveness of the stigma is placed on sharp display with the recent case of Patricia Ripley, the South Florida woman who filed a false report describing two black men as carjackers who abducted her child. The authorities issued Amber alerts, describing men who didn’t exist, suspected of a crime that Ripley herself is charged with committing. Add to that, the Amy Cooper incident in Central Park in New York. Cooper, threatened, then called 911 to falsely report that a black man was attempting to physically harm her and her dog. He wasn’t. He was trying to watch birds.
The inequity and blatant disregard for black lives in these cases most assuredly require a sense of privilege and a healthy dose of bias — if not blatant racism — to take such abusive actions out on people of a different race. Additionally, we see how the offender must have felt a sense of empowerment by some authority to act in this manner. As a result, African Americans do not think that, ‘We are all in this together.’
Personally, I have stood privately and publicly with Jewish, Muslim, Native American, and LGBTQ brothers and sisters when they have been affected by hate-based crimes in their communities. That is why I ask that all who read this to stand publicly with us against the racial violence and criminal acts against black people. In our pursuit of a “more perfect union’, we need to hear collective voices of all races, creeds and colors speaking out publicly. Silence in the face of this crisis is as good as complicity.
I also ask that legislators and business leaders establish policies that will promote inclusion and penalize acts of racial hatred toward black people. It is only when we stand together in solidarity and with a true commitment to justice can we build a nation where all of us are truly created equal.
Ruban Roberts is president of the Miami-Dade branch of the NAACP.
Original Article can be read here.