Standing up to Racism
I am a retired Air Force Officer, former City of Albuquerque Appointee, NM Democratic State Central Committee member, and candidate for the New Mexico Senate District 23. I am also an African American. While many New Mexicans are disgusted, outraged, and hurting from the video of the murder of George Floyd, these feelings are even more heartbreaking and triggering for members of the African American community.
In New Mexico, many in our African American communities are being forgotten because they make up such a small percentage of the population. We can no longer ignore their plight. Around the country, too many African American lives have been lost at the hands of police violence without any form of justice. These are mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, sons, daughters, sisters and brothers who were taken from us by senseless violence perpetrated by those sworn to protect. This trauma not only impacts the families who have suffered a loss but damages the community as a whole. The physical and mental stress from these horrific acts of violence has been wreaking havoc on the lives of African Americans for centuries. And it must end.
This recent atrocity is just but one example and a reminder of the systemic injustices that are perpetrated in our society. But this is also a symptom of the real issue – racism. As a nation, we have been unwilling to address and eradicate it. While some would argue that George Floyd’s murder is not race-based, the reality is we have seen these horrific acts time and time again. It was only six years ago we witnessed Eric Gardener being strangled to death and pleading for his life by saying the same exact words, “I Can’t Breathe!”. The examples are numerous, and therein lies the problem. These acts continue to happen with no end in sight. And these are only the incidents that have made national news.
Many in our local community have traumatic stories which need to be told and heard. This is why many have taken to the streets to have their pleas to be heard while calls for change have not been acknowledged by our leaders. America has made strides in racial equality but we are not where we need to be in order “to form a more perfect Union” set forth in the Constitution and in applying equal justice to all.
As New Mexicans, we can lead the way. The Land of Enchantment has one of the most diverse communities in the nation which thrives on the culture, traditions, and innovations within our multi-racial and multi-ethnic population. But celebrating each other is not enough and we can’t continue to ignore the racial divide. When will more of us speak out against racist acts? When will we stop profiling African American men as threats? When will we acknowledge the history and policies that continue to protect and perpetrate racism in our country? When will we acknowledge the dehumanization of African Americans which allows for them to be murdered with no accountability levied on their perpetrators? When will we stop attacking and tarnishing the reputation of victims in order to protect perpetrators of this violence? When will African American parents no longer need to talk to their young boys about how to interact with law enforcement and how to interact with others in their community to avoid violence or even death?
For this nation and our state to move forward, we must acknowledge the racial divide and the impacts and barriers that African Americans are forced to overcome. We must stand up and speak out against racism and bigotry whenever it rears its ugly head, even if it’s difficult. We must get to know our neighbors and community members so that we never dehumanize or make them feel less than or that their lives don’t matter. More empathy and understanding must be given to those harmed within our community. In order for this to happen, we must be willing to listen.
We must support policies and leaders that change the systems and structures that are unjust or discriminate against African Americans. The fight for equality and inclusion is not a handout nor does it take away from others because there is no limit on the resources of fairness, justice, and equality. New Mexicans must also acknowledge implicit bias and provide education and training as a standard in our education system. We must also address the mental and physical health trauma that has been caused or exacerbated by racism that leads to increased mortality rates for African Americans. Finally, we must all reflect on ourselves and commit to doing our part to eradicate racism. It’s not enough to not be racist [– we must be anti-racist all of the time.
This is not just an African American issue but an American issue. When it is corrected and remedied, everyone benefits by having liberty and justice for all. If we want to make sure no more lives are lost to systemic racism, let’s join together not as Democrats, Republicans, or Independents, but as Americans. We must begin the conversation and work to make that a reality.