Circa 1985, Que “We Are the World”

This week, I struggled with what to write. This is such a powerful moment in time. Given the current state of affairs, what would be the right thing to say?  There is so much going on;  a global pandemic, people struggling to keep food on the table, people sick and families dying. As if that wasn’t enough, we witnessed the murder of George Floyd as it occurred. The country is in an uproar. Much like the pandemic, the response to his murder has been global. But the biggest question is – what lies ahead?  What’s next?

The reality is that we have pondered this question for decades, heck even centuries. When you become a person of a certain age you ponder it more. It is not so much that you are thinking of yourself but you reflect on the things you have gone through, what this world will be like when you are no longer a part of it, and if you have done enough to make it better. 

We have become a reactive society. While we are reacting to what has transpired we must be proactive about what we want to see in this moment. Repealing 50-A and defunding the police departments are a good start but it is only the beginning. We also need to invest in communities, contract opportunities for MWBE firms, housing, education, universal health care and climate change. Moving forward, where we spend taxpayers dollars will speak volumes. 

There are many changes that lie ahead.  In Minneapolis, some would like to see the police departments abolished all together. I don’t know if New York City is at that point. We definitely have to work on being a society that when left to ourselves we can be trusted but this is certainly a time to discuss options that are outside the box. Engaging in these conversations and implementing changes to policies is the only way we will move past this moment in a positive way.

This moment is not just about this moment. We should all look at ourselves and see what part we may have played in our getting to this moment. Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat; this moment is about years of seeing the inequity, injustice, disproportion and disparity. It’s about writing the reports, speaking out and being appalled but not enacting or supporting the legislation that would change it.  It’s about police brutality but it’s also about allowing laws that would address the racial inequities to expire thereby making it necessary for people of color to remain in fight mode struggling to grow, create change and fight for basic rights that others take for granted. 

We have all played a role in getting us here, even those of us who are elected leaders. Maybe you saw something that wasn’t quite right and didn’t say anything for fear of losing a position. Perhaps you saw an injustice and remained quiet because you felt that it was the other person’s fault, or that they should do better or it doesn’t affect you. Or perhaps you don’t support bills that would address economic inequities, while supporting those that you knew would disproportionately affect people of color but you didn’t care because they don’t live in your district. No one comes to this moment with clean hands. But we all have an opportunity to come out of this moment more enlightened, more informed and doing better. 

Truth be told, we look to our leaders to put the things in place that will give us the assurance of better things to come, but they don’t have all of the answers. We don’t either. Still we critique, criticize and point out everything that isn’t working. I wonder if the answer is the exact opposite; one of compassion for our leaders and our police officers. Maybe the answer is to be a resource to those who don’t know better so that we can teach them to do better. We all grow from our learned experiences. If someone has not had our experience we need to educate them so that they can understand. In the past week I have had a number of conversations with people who were disheartened about what transpired with George Floyd. They did not think that in 2020 the situation was this dire and were surprised that I and the men in my family had been stopped for no reason. They cried and apologized as they shared with me their white privilege.   As heartfelt as these actions are, if we are sincere in this moment we have to think about our future in a holistic way.  My hope is that for those joining the black and brown communities in this moment, please don’t let this be just a moment.  I hope that you are in it for the long haul and are willing to take steps behind the protest. BE the example of the change we want to see. 

To the people that look like me, I want to say I am so proud of you. I am proud that given everything we’ve been through in this city, in this state, in this country and in this world; like Maya Angelou so eloquently said, “Still we rise.”  In our rising and in this moment we must address all of the issues. 

Let’s start somewhere. Repeal 50A, defund police departments, invest in minority communities, and create the opportunities that will bring about change. Let’s ensure that there is diversity related to how our tax dollars are spent. To the major corporations, don’t just donate money at this moment. Look at your policies, hire more minorities in senior positions, treat your employees well, address racism that exists in your workplaces and pay your employees fair wages. Two percent increases are not sufficient. To the sports leagues, without minorities you wouldn’t exist. Do more. To the players, without minorities, sports leagues wouldn’t exist. Don’t allow the perception of losing something keep you in fear of speaking out and doing something. Shout out to Colin Kaepernick who lost it all so that people of color would not have to die at the hands of police officers. If we listened to Colin, George Floyd might be alive today. To all of us; be better, do better. Black lives built this country. Black people are forgiving people but don’t take our kindness for weakness. We are tired, we want better and Black Lives Matter!

I want you to remain hopeful. I want you to know that I am in this with you 150 percent. In the infamous lyrics of Michael Jackson’s 1985 hit, “We are the world. We are the children. We are the ones to make a brighter day so let’s start giving. There’s a choice we’re making, we’re saving our own lives. It’s true we’ll make a better day just you and me.”  

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