All of us have watched how the events of the past few weeks have operated to wake the national consciousness.
The murder of George Floyd has sparked what hopefully will become a more lasting and meaningful dialogue between those who have been impacted by race and systemic racism and those who have not. Conversations about racism, police, and politics are being actively discussed among family, friends, colleagues, and social acquaintances in person, online, over the phone or screen, and at protests. The fact that it took a pandemic to make these fissures burn brighter reinforces how inextricably intertwined they are with each other, with social determinants of health, and with our economy.
As someone who is genetically a mix of European and Polynesian (Tongan) descent, and whose paternal side lived in and fought for this country since its beginning, my perspectives and experiences with race and racism have not been shaped the same way as many other Americans whose ancestry differs. I cannot fully appreciate nor understand the spectrum of experiences that persons of color, and particularly those who are Black and brown, have when it comes to living and participating in what may be to me routine activities.
However, my experiences from growing up in a small town, living in, visiting, and working in other cities around the country and world, and working with many professionals, volunteers, and coworkers of different ages, races, and cultures have exposed me to a variety of actions, opinions, and perspectives, all of which have helped inform my own. In more recent years, I’ve developed a more refined appreciation and empathy for my friends and colleagues who have experienced acts of racism and domestic terrorism, unintentional or otherwise, in ways sometimes very different than my own. Having kids has also made me think more critically about the world they are going to grow up in, how they will experience it, and how I would like them to experience it. My opinions and perspectives continue to evolve, as anyone’s should.
The only way will be able to develop the national conversation and move forward together, as one community, in one state, and in one nation, is to recognize the moment we are in and work together to advance past it.
Our country has a problem with racism and has since its beginning. The current moral debate over police brutality and discrimination is our current burden to resolve, not unlike how slavery created a deep and lasting divide among our founding fathers and the citizens of the early republic. Back then, the nation’s leaders ultimately forged a compromise largely by agreeing to punt the issue, which a majority of the fragile coalition found acceptable and which moved us from a confederation to a nation. The promises that we will solve these issues of race and racism have been broken, protested, fought, debated, rebuilt, and tried again by each generation that has followed. The time to protest and fight over this issue has come once again.
The next generation — whether they are Xennials in their early 40s like me, or millennials in their late 20s or 30s, or GenZers about to go to college or starting their careers — are at an inflection point. Our country, our state, and our cities and small towns have been long divided by color and ethnicity, socioeconomics, and politics, long before names and cities like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, Charleston, and Ferguson, among many others became synonyms and catalysts for national conversation and calls for reform and change. Whether we choose to take the zeitgeist of this moment and act in a decisive way to effectuate the change we are calling for or merely continue to talk about it happening someday remains to be seen.
For my part, I choose to act and lead. By being an active listener. By reading as much about these issues as I can from as many different sources as I can. By supporting those whose race acts more often than not as an economic and social barrier. I hope my actions inspire others to do the same.
The only way will be able to develop the national conversation and move forward together, as one community, in one state, and in one nation, is to recognize the moment we are in and work together to advance past it. We have a responsibility to engage in healthy debate with each other online and in person. Like with the pandemic’s impact on public health and the economy, there is a balance of interests that needs to be struck in order to reach an agreement over how we should collectively do so.
As a call to action, if you are someone who normally avoids talking about politics online or sharing your personal opinions, now is not the time to be silent. To the extent you agree or disagree, say so — and perhaps explain why in more than a thumbs up. If the facts someone gives are wrong or misleading, call them out on it. Same if someone posts something you feel is racist or bigoted. Chances are you are not alone in your thinking, and others who may not be as willing to speak out will appreciate your efforts.
I have helped compile a few links to other articles and resources, including some I have read or that have been shared with me over the past few days. As a lawyer by training and experience, I have some bias toward legal-related organizations, and given my familiarity with them, lead with them as resources to consider learning more about and potentially supporting. The sum of the links are not intended to be an exhaustive list by any means, but hopefully a review of some or all of them helps spur some of the conversation we need to move the collective debate along.
To be clear, Black lives matter. Learning why Black lives matter matters. Supporting Black lives matters. In my view, we are standing on the precipice of a moment that is both national and local, and one which could break several ways, including completely. I remain optimistic and supportive of the call that now is the time for the leaders of the next generation — our generation — to stand up, speak out, and seize on this opportunity. We should be supportive of anyone — and particularly the Black community — who is helping lead efforts and working toward equitable access to opportunity and justice, not only for personal reasons but for our children who will inherit a life in the world we leave behind.