After the Protests
One week ago, the senseless murder of George Floyd added yet another name to the long list of black men and women who have been murdered by police officers in this country. Devalued and dehumanized…there are no words to describe the heartbreak, anger, frustration, outrage and sadness that black men and women have endured for decades.
As this pandemic magnifies the impact of the disparate treatment communities of color receive when it comes to healthcare, jobs, economic opportunity and quality of life, it’s painfully clear that we’re “damned if we do or damned if we don’t.”
It sickens me to think that while COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on black and brown people, we can either risk being exposed to the virus while protesting for equality and justice or risk being gunned down or asphyxiated at the hands of the next racist cop.
George Floyd’s final moments captured on video reveal more than the brutality and inhumanity of his murder. They show us who we’ve become in this broken, racially-divided America, as one officer casually and callously suffocates the life out of his body, and three others stand guard and watch. That visual was the tipping point…the last straw and prayerfully, the catalyst for change because one thing is certain.
We can never go back to the way things were. Not after COVID-19 and not after the murder of George Floyd.
But, violence is not the answer.
And while I don’t condone it, I do understand and share the pain and devastation that my black and brown brothers and sisters are feeling in this moment.
Saturday’s protest began peacefully at the State House, but things took a turn when protesters confronted officers near the Columbia Police Department. By Sunday, at least twelve officers, two firefighters, a reporter and several community members were injured.
I’m all about protesting peacefully because our pleas have “fallen on deaf ears” for far too long. But once the violence erupts, it quickly overshadows our message, our motives and our mission, which is exactly what outside agitators who came to incite violence, vandalize our businesses and destroy our city, intended.
At a time when there’s understandably much distrust between the black community and government leaders and police officers who are sworn to represent and protect us, it’s irresponsible and counterproductive for any elected official to “fan the flames,” spew divisive rhetoric or use their bully pulpits to deliberately hijack our message.
We must be smart and strategic. Systematic, institutional change takes time. We’ll miss this opportunity if we “take our eyes off the prize” and lose sight of the goal, which is justice and accountability for George Floyd and other black and brown people who continue to be marginalized, maligned, mistreated and murdered by bad cops and citizen vigilantes, without cause or consequence.
The real work includes restructuring our government, reforming our criminal justice system and repealing the discriminatory, oppressive and unjust policies and practices that have systematically kept “knees on our necks” for decades.
To my black and brown brothers and sisters who want justice, equity and accountability:
VOTE! Every election. Every office. Every time.
Help others GET REGISTERED TO VOTE
SUPPORT CANDIDATES who value and support us
RUN FOR OFFICE
BE THE CHANGE
To my white brothers and sisters who want to help, but aren’t sure how:
ACKNOWLEDGE our pain, even if you can't understand or relate to it
CHANGE what you can where you can
To my white elected colleagues:
PASS a Hate Crimes bill
REPEAL South Carolina’s expansive Citizens Arrest Law
REFORM South Carolina’s criminal justice system
RESTRUCTURE state government so that it proportionately reflects the state’s diversity and meets the needs of all South Carolinians
AMEND or repeal state laws that create disparities, perpetuate discrimination and disproportionately impact communities of color
For men and women of color…the struggle is real. The pain is raw. And it’s not going away even if you choose to look away. We appreciate your words, but we need your actions.
From Trayvon Martin to Eric Gardner, Michael Brown, LaQuan McDonald, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Botham Jean, Atatiana Jefferson, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and too many others…
“We can’t breathe” until all of our black lives matter…