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The Recorder - Editorial: America is rightfully outraged

Published: 6/5/2020 2:36:33 PM

Modified: 6/5/2020 2:36:22 PM

From sea to shining sea, America was founded as a place for refugees fleeing persecution — a nation created by those at the margins of society who were tired of governmental oppression.

Of course, there’s a much uglier side to our nation’s beginnings — including the genocide and oppression of enslaved and native people — but the fundamental tenants held by America’s founders, as documented in the Constitution, reverberate today:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

And yet, more than a century and a half after the Civil War ended, there are many among us who are still denied these basic rights based on the color of their skin. Data has shown our criminal justice system unfairly incarcerates minorities; happiness is more difficult to pursue under the weight of economic disparity, which is correlated to ethnicity; even life, as we’ve seen recently in the case of George Floyd and many others, is sometimes denied by the very same entity that’s supposed to protect it.

America is rightfully outraged.

In this, we must work together, individually and as a society, to put an end to race discrimination and demand more from our leaders.

Thankfully, we live in a region that is led by socially conscious people who stand on moral principle. A recent letter signed by Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan and 39 other elected prosecutors didn’t hold back in condemning the killing of Floyd, which was documented in a bystander video clearly depicting Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer, kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes as he pleads for his life; nearby, other officers can be seen prohibiting civilians from interceding:

“The murder of Mr. Floyd is only one of many episodes of police brutality and excessive force that have plagued our communities for decades,” the letter reads. “These violent, sickening and despicable acts threaten the safety of our streets and erode critical bonds of trust in our justice system. Every episode of police violence against people of color lays bare the unbroken link between slavery and modern racially biased policing, and demonstrates the moral imperative for all law enforcement leaders and every member of our justice system to do better.”

Likewise, Greenfield Police Chief Robert H. Haigh Jr. noted, “Those who put the uniform on every day should be proud to serve all humanity, and should do so without prejudice, and with honor.”

We agree — it’s refreshing to see so many leaders within the criminal justice system acknowledging the travesty of justice in one particular incident.

The next step is to broadside the sweeping system-wide inequalities that continue to exist despite the valiant peaceful efforts of so many, from Rosa Parks to Colin Kaepernick.

Talk is good. Listening is better. Action is best.

Individually, this means trying to understand the perspectives of fellow Americans who might share different experiences when it comes to law enforcement. (More than that, it’s important to note that racism is perpetuated through so much of everyday life — it needs to be addressed on all levels, not just by police.) It also means exercising another American right: When the time comes, get out and vote with your conscience.

The small actions of many will make the reality we live in look more like the ideals documented in the Constitution.

Until then, we, like the great civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., are looking toward a better tomorrow when equality based on race is a given and protesters don’t need to take to the streets to make their voices heard.

King advocated for peaceful protest — ultimately, his life was taken by hateful violence.

In a speech King delivered at the Mason Temple Church in Memphis, Tenn., one day before he was assassinated, he seemed to foreshadow his impending death:

“I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

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