We are failing the promise of liberty. From our government agencies to private institutions and even our very social fabric. We are failing the promise of our constitution and the bedrock principles of our nation.
When George Floyd is killed by a police officer who does not treat him as a free, equal human being, we fail. When Ahmaud Arbery is killed by assailants who assume that a man of his skin color in their neighborhood is a criminal, we fail. And when African Americans everywhere are routinely subjected to suspicion and police calls, simply because they are enjoying the same liberties and spaces others take for granted, we have failed.
We’ve failed because we have not created a nation where all citizens are free, entitled to the same rights, privileges, and respect. Instead, we’ve allowed racism to entrench an unofficial yet tangible hierarchy of rights in the Land of the Free. And with every passing tragedy, our unwillingness to confront it reinforces that unjust system.
That has to stop.
The justifications and wilful blindness have to end. That starts by holding these killers accountable under the law, but that measure of justice is not enough to protect black lives in the future. We can’t just address the cases that happen to be caught on camera, and not the underlying causes.
This is an American problem, and every one of us — black, white or other, left, right or center – have to confront it. None of us are truly free, so long as our friends, neighbors, or fellow citizens are deprived of the same fundamental rights we enjoy.
We are being torn apart at the seams — seams we’ve long tried to sew together to cover up racial wounds that reach back before our founding. The names of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd have quickly become household names for the saddest of reasons, but they are neither the beginning nor the end of the tragedy that is unfolding America.
We cannot save them now, but we can do the work to slow and ultimately stop the cycle of racism. If we unite to do that, then we can finally reach towards the full promise of liberty, and maybe give some meaning to their unjust and tragic deaths.