By Congressman Al Lawson – This has been a difficult week. The coronavirus is still among us changing the way we live our lives and taking from us loved ones. Businesses have begun to reopen, but people are moving into those places with a sense of fear and anxiety. Yet, we wonder whether the economy is being saved at our expense. Even with those thoughts, we are still cautious about what we hear and whether to believe what officials are saying about the precautions that should be taken and that can be relaxed. We will all make decisions that we feel reflect our best thinking and our best efforts to stay safe.
In the midst of this pandemic we have seen an old enemy, an old foe, an old demon once again raise its ugly head, and inject itself in our lives. Racism has decided to avoid all the usual subtleties it normally displays. It has stepped front and center that we might once again be reminded of its manipulative strength and its disruptive power. Nearly a century ago, W.E.B. Dubois wrote, “the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line.” Little did he know it would continue its steps into the 21st century without fear of repercussions.
We have witnessed the appalling deaths of so many of our people by individuals who felt they were empowered and entitled to act in the most inhumane ways. Last week, we were once again forced to face that truth and watch the slow and almost measured response.
As we staggered from watching the death of Ahmaud Arbery, we then saw the fallen lifeless frame of George Floyd, whose final moments were spent lying handcuffed on the ground with a Minneapolis police officer’s knee in his back and on his neck.
Those images are seared in our consciousness. Along with that is also the images and knowledge of “essential workers” who have died from the virus, but had to work to make ends meet.
It seems as if the pandemic has a new ally. The virus has disproportionately attacked our community and now it has received the unsolicited assistance of overt racism.
This is a hard time for each and every one of us. For far too many of us, it is a rerun of a movie that we have seen too many times before. I watched these events of seeming indifference to the rights, dreams and hopes of African Americans and remembered that the struggle is never over. Each generation must face the evil that presents itself and lead the charge to change the world. We must move forward to call forth a national conversation on the injustices that are still deemed acceptable by society and demand change.
Our nation’s leaders have a moral responsibility to listen to those who are grieving and say: we see you, we hear you, and we are with you. When leaders listen to those crying out for justice, that is strength as well.
I hope that, in the days ahead, we Americans can all embrace our strengths by reaching out in brotherhood and sisterhood to one another, to honor George Floyd’s memory by working together to repair the America that so tragically failed him.