On May 25th 2020, the entire world was able to observe a total racial eclipse, which occurs when the sunlight of freedom, justice and equality is completely blocked by the shadow of systemic racism. What we saw was the behavioral outcomes of systemic racism displayed by four police officers responsible for the killing of a human being, George Floyd. We saw a white officer named Mr. Derek Chauvin display an intentional act of overt discrimination and we saw other officers retreat to complicity by displaying gross negligence and inaction to prevent the death of George Floyd.
What we did not see were the racially implicit biases and associations inside the minds of these police officers that have been reinforced in their minds continuously by systemic racism.
Systemic racism is a system that has been in motion in our country since the first slaves arrived in 1619 and accelerated in 1641 when Massachusetts became the first colony to legalize slavery. Isaac Newton’s first law of motion states that an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an external force. We have not been able to slow down or redirect this system because we have only acted on on the system’s individual parts rather than the entire structure of the system and the cumulative effects of its parts working together over time.
There is hope. We are also seeing unprecedented displays of empathy and solidarity from companies, political and religious leaders across the world. We are seeing the remarkable momentum of humanity who collectively just threw the hammer of the human spirit at the system causing it to briefly malfunction. But policing is only one component of this incredible system which includes housing and educational segregation, job discrimination, mass incarceration, and environmental discrimination, which ultimately cultivates unhealthy communities.
We have also seen what does not work after seeing a racial eclipse. In 1967, a rare racial eclipse occurred, riots broke out and created civil unrest. President Lyndon B. Johnson established a commission to investigate the causes of the race riots that occurred in over 100 cities and identify potential solutions. The commission produced a report that made it clear that the resistance was sparked by Black American’s frustration due to discrimination and lack of economic opportunity and concluded, “our nation is moving toward two societies, one Black, one White— separate and unequal.” Although powerful legislation was passed and agencies were created as a result, they did not become national priorities and lacked funding, resources, and enforcement capacity and were further weakened by both Democrats and Republicans over time.
Once the protests stop and the remaining officers charged, calls will be made for “conversations on race.” However, we know what does not work are mere conversations without changes in policies, practices and procedures. Systemic racism must become a sustained national priority for federal, state, local government agencies and corporations who must work in a cross-collaborative manner to attack the entire structure of systemic racism and all its individual parts simultaneously.
We have the data, the expertise and currently the energy and hope in our nation to begin dismantling systemic racism, but if it does not become a sustained commitment from all of us, the system will continue to be perennial, pervasive and permanent.
My heart and prayers go out to George Floyd and his family and to all of us and our families as we heal and move forward to take on this monumental challenge to break and rebuild our entire society.
All Eyes on Equity!
President and Founder
The Racial Equity Group