By Keith Widyolar
June 11, 2020
When I first heard “Black Lives Matter,” it seemed an obvious truth. Latin is very Black and all of us in communities of color have experienced racism first hand. But it seemed far beyond my power as an individual to do anything about.
I came to see “Black Lives Matter” as a slogan. In marginalized communities, we have many complaints and this was just one of them.
We Have a Problem
Then came George Floyd (Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2020) and a flurry of news about more Black lives lost at the hands of police and others.
- Breonna Taylor (Louisville, Kentucky, 2020)
- Ahmaud Arbery (Brunswick, Georgia, 2020, not the police, but the same hatred)
- Botham Jean (Dallas, Texas, 2018)
- Stephon Clark (Sacramento, California, 2018)
- Philando Castile (St. Paul, Minnesota, 2016)
- Alton Sterling (Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 2016)
- Jamar Clark (Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2015)
- Freddie Gray (Baltimore, Maryland, 2015)
- Walter Scott (North Charleston, South Carolina, 2015)
- Tamir Rice (Cleveland, Ohio, 2014)
- Laquan McDonald (Chicago, Illinois, 2014)
- Michael Brown (Ferguson, Missouri, 2014)
- Eric Garner (New York City, 2014)
And on and on
This is not even near a complete list. How many more are there?
Did anyone get punished for these murders? A few did, but mostly nobody.
Police brutality is the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Being authority figures, allowing police to be violent with people of color encourages others to do the same.
How many more victims were not in front of a camera? It’s endless. We have a serious problem.
Racism is Not Someone Else’s Problem
This was never just a Black issue, but finally most Americans are taking a good look in the mirror.
It’s human nature to blame others for our own problems, but racism is as much my problem as it is your problem. Systemic racism is our problem. In the United States we have never really dealt with it even though racism has diminished our country since its founding.
I can’t blame this on anybody else. As an American of the United States, I am responsible too. I am sorry and ashamed that I haven’t done more.
American Policing was Founded on Racist Violence
I want the police to be our police, a community police, but the very foundations of policing in the United States and the NYPD are themselves corrupt.
Watching the NYPD respond to protests against police violence, with more police violence, proved the validity of the protests.
Looking into calls to “defund the police,” I discovered that one of the foundations of policing in the United States was harassing African-Americans. Modern U.S. policing is a sad vestige of our history as a slaving nation.
The NYPD too was founded on violence. It began as competing city and state police forces who would show up at a crime scene and fight it out on the street. The winner of the fight got paid for the service.
Some form of policing is necessary, but there must be a better way. We are not going to solve our problems by fighting each other in the streets.
The only sensible way forward is together. “We” are the solution.
George Floyd Protests Have Created an Opportunity for Change
Watching my fellow citizens of all races, ages, regions and religions protesting police brutality and systemic racism has done something entirely unexpected.
For the first time since the 1960s, we have a chance at real change. The chance is ours as long as we remain united and young people demand it.
For me “Black Lives Matter” is no longer a slogan or complaint. It is a sad, but hopeful truth that we must keep repeating to ourselves and others, until it becomes completely meaningless.
Still We Rise
When “Black Lives Matter,” all lives will matter. When our country is truly for all its people, our nation will rise and rise and rise.
So in this moment, I want to thank the protesters for their service and hope that peaceful protests will continue until we have real change.
The way forward is to reconnect with our community organizations, local government, the police too, and especially to vote. If Blacks and Latins and young people vote, we’ll be a very different society.
The first step to solving a problem is to accept that you have one. So I believe, without qualification, that “Black Lives Matter.”
Now our work begins…
Black Lives Matter Organization
The official Black Lives Matter organization is at blacklivesmatter.com
Black Lives Matter is All We Need
She’s Brazilian. Much of what we celebrate about being Latin is Black. We don’t need to say [fill in the blank] lives matter.
Black Lives Matter is all we need. All we need is love.