Analysis & Opinions - The New York Times

Take the Next Step Toward Racial Justice

| July 21, 2020

This incipient movement risks being reduced to a fleeting instant of heightened consciousness.

Since George Floyd’s murder, America has begun a remarkable reckoning with racial injustice. People of every race and generation have come together in largely peaceful protests across the nation to halt police brutality, which is disproportionately directed at people of color. But many Americans are demanding much more — that we finally redress the systemic racism that persists in this country, understanding that it diminishes us all.

This defining moment, unlike any since the 1960s, has the potential to transform the country into one that is far more just and equal for all its citizens. Yet, this incipient movement also risks being reduced to a fleeting instant of heightened consciousness, one that dissipates in the fog of pandemic, economic recession and a bitter presidential campaign.

Much of the progress to date, while welcome, has been symbolic or superficial. Once reluctant institutions, from NASCAR to the Mississippi State Legislature and the U.S. military, now bar the Confederate battle flag from public display. Black Lives Matter murals adorn streets outside the White House and Trump Tower in New York. Confederate monuments are coming down.

In the corporate world, executives are scrambling to diversify their c-suites and boardrooms, to source more products from African-American suppliers and donate to nonprofits supporting communities of color. Companies are rushing to retire brands with racially charged histories, like Aunt Jemima pancakes and Washington’s N.F.L. team.

At the municipal level, some cities are reviewing their budgets in response to calls to reallocate resources from law enforcement to social services and to reimagine the nature of policing. It remains unclear what will result, but cities should proceed prudently to preserve public safety while enhancing the well-being of those living in underserved communities.

But where it matters most, Congress has yet again missed the moment. The House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would institute carefully calibrated reforms, but it was blocked in the Republican-controlled Senate. After perfunctory lip service and failure to pass a pale substitute for the House bill, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, seems eager to move on. Meanwhile, he refuses to allow Senate consideration of a new Voting Rights Act or of funding to ensure safe voting during a raging pandemic, knowing that communities of color are suffering disproportionately from the coronavirus.

And predictably, President Trump has doubled down on his platform of divisiveness and blatant bigotry. Almost daily, Mr. Trump throws racist red meat to his base, hoping it will boost his sagging poll numbers. He has called peaceful protesters “thugs” and threatened Bull Connor-style tactics — the use of “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons.”

Mr. Trump retweets videos of supporters screaming “white power” and white citizens who brandish guns at peaceful marchers. He parrots misleadingly that more white people than Black people are killed by the police. Mr. Trump sends federal forces to guard monuments and terrorize protesters, pledges to block the renaming of U.S. military bases that commemorate Confederate generals and dismisses flying the Confederate flag as an act of “free speech.”

Against this backdrop of half-measures and outright hostility, it’s easy to envision that the momentum for progress on racial justice will soon be squandered. But it needn’t be.

  – Via The New York Times.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Rice, Susan.“Take the Next Step Toward Racial Justice.” The New York Times, July 21, 2020.