For decades, video cameras have captured incidents of police brutality involving people of color. Yet despite this documented record of cruelty, our criminal justice system has failed to bring justice and accountability to victims and policymakers have failed to end racial injustice across America.
Now, in the midst of protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, we are again called to transform our country and heal our communities.
Back in 1992, when a jury acquitted the officers who mercilessly beat him, Rodney King famously asked, "Can we all get along?" It appears that, for now, the sad answer is still no. We can't. It's not possible to "get along" when George Floyd's last words were "I can't breathe."
The truth is, racial injustice, racial inequality, white supremacy and police brutality have been around since our country's founding. To address these painful truths, we must take a hard look at our history, and ourselves. We must reflect on our conditioning and come together around common values of equality and justice.
Though this cannot happen overnight, we must start now and with urgency, as lives do in fact depend on it. We cannot and must not stay silent. Even as our cities have been set ablaze with rage, Americans must come together to heal each other's wounds and address systemic racism. We must find ways to bring change in the struggle for equality.
An important starting point is to learn about black history in America, from slavery to the present day. Books including Ibram X. Kendi's "Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America" and Michelle Alexander's "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness" can help us grasp how deep the problem is.
We must acknowledge that we are a nation in great need of repentance, healing, forgiveness and justice. Only by accepting the existence of systemic racism can we confront it in all of its forms and be ready for the healing and growth needed on both an individual and societal level.
We must also recognize that white Americans benefit from privilege on a daily basis, in countless ways. This system helps maintain a racial hierarchy in this country, which allows things like police brutality to exist in the first place.
Finally, we must become allies to oppressed communities. That means reaching out to fellow community members, holding town hall meetings and working to recognize each other's pains and fears. Let's work together to come up with solutions that consider everyone's needs.
As #JusticeForFloyd protests continue, let us echo the calls for justice and equality while condemning hate and violence in all forms. More hate won't fix anything and will make our existing problems worse. Only love and compassion can bring our communities together.
In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., "Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love."
We truly are a nation in need of evolution and love, not just for ourselves but for communities in pain. Let us show each other - and the world - that we can rise above this moment.
ABOUT THE WRITERS
Shukria Dellawar and Hassab El-Tayyab work for the Friends Committee on National Legislation. Dellawar is the coordinator of its Prevention and Protection Working Group, El-Tayyab is its legislative manager for Middle East policy. The views expressed in this op-ed do not necessarily represent the organizations they are affiliated with. This column was edited by the Progressive Media Project, which is run by The Progressive magazine, and distributed by Tribune News Service.