Everyone should be outraged at the death of George Floyd and should join us in asking hard questions and pushing for change.
It should be clear that this country has made strides in recent decades, but it should also be self-evident that more work needs to be done. It is true that legal barriers to equality have fallen. In fact, many of our institutions have altered policies and many are led by people who themselves have suffered the scourge of racism. So there is a desire and an opportunity to do things differently.
We will have more to say about administering our system of criminal justice and of creating the right cultures within governmental institutions in the days and weeks ahead, but right now as we face curfews and grapple with the enormity of the events we are now living through, we would like to suggest pausing to ask an uncomfortable question: Have we really engaged on an individual and family level a thoughtful, inclusive, and open minded discussion about race, about the challenges our history presents and about suffering and grievance so many of our fellow citizens feel or live every day?
To ask the question is to suggest an answer. And here, it might be helpful to suggest many people consider the thoughts of civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson — the man recently featured in the movie Just Mercy. He offers four straightforward pieces of advice when seeking to make a difference: get proximate, change the narrative, stay hopeful, and learn to be uncomfortable.
Are you talking to your family and friends about race and how skin color affects daily life? Have you asked why some of your neighbors are so moved by what they see that they are marching in the streets? Do you acknowledge that their experiences, concerns, and fears are valid? Such conversations are important, and, yeah, sometimes they will be uncomfortable.
We also ask that all people be respectful and listen to one another, no matter one’s race or background. If we are unwilling to ask questions that may seem clear to one, yet confusing to another, then we are unwilling to ensure that others can air their thoughts. We need to create space where assumptions and judgment are put aside, however hard that may be. It’s about developing empathy and understanding.
Racism is a cancer that pervades our society, but it doesn’t have to be with us forever. Engaging in a conversation now is one thing each person can do to open their hearts to meaningful change that can eradicate assumptions and beliefs that have fed this cancer for too long.
Dallas Morning News