Ronald Christopher is the Chairman of the King-Tisdell Cottage Foundation.
AMID the COVID-19 pandemic, we are reminded that the most virulent and deadly virus afflicting America is white racism.
The shockingly brutal murder of George Floyd in broad daylight by "Minneapolis’ Finest," in the full view of spectators, is but the most recent graphic evidence that the racism virus resists containment.
Racism, in my view, is the pre-eminent threat to global peace, for it mocks the credibility of American democracy and its cherished promises, at home and abroad. If we are to ever respond effectively, we must understand that the virus of racism permeates all aspects of American life, not just policing and the administration of criminal justice. The disease is devastating. Since before the founding of this Republic, the racially oppressed have said, written, yelled, protested, and demonstrated, prayed, and even cried: We can’t breathe. Yet, our leaders, national and local, have struggled to effectively address this existential threat.
As drastic changes are being contemplated to combat the risks of biological threats like COVID-19, consider that an effective response to the threats of virulent racism will require no less drastic measures.
The necessary changes are too numerous to relate here. The question at this point is, can this America muster the will to make the changes?
Let us recognize the hope represented by the thousands of street protesters whose humanity demanded they shout out and act up against this blatant expression of racist depravity. The Most High bless them. Perhaps racism cannot be eradicated. This malevolent spirit possessing the hearts and minds of many otherwise fine human beings requires individual soul work.
But can we at least eradicate the obvious mechanisms embedded in our institutions that perpetuate racial oppression of African Americans and other ethnic minorities, and the subjugation of the poor? For example, can we eliminate the double standard of justice that exists for police officers versus everyone else for criminal acts? That is, can we have true “equal protection of the law”? Relatedly, can we cease the blanket glorification of police officers and “first responders” in our public discourse? Clearly, they are not all heroes. Some are, but too many are not. Heroism is a matter of exemplary character and extraordinary performance in the service of humanity. Not easily measured up to. Let us not lower the standard.
Indeed, the true heroes are those individuals who enter the fray on the side of equal justice, whether protesting in the streets or standing up and speaking out for right where they live and work, in the hope for a better society. As always, they are the reason to believe that America can indeed become its best possible self someday.
Let us continue to hold them dear in our hearts, protect them and give them the credit they deserve.