Reston, VA

Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

The image of a man in a uniform pressing his knee down on the neck of a hand-cuffed black man while being protected by three other uniformed individuals is so revolting and repulsive that I cannot get it out of my mind. The picture joins those in my mind of black persons being shot in the back by uniformed individuals without just cause, photos of black persons hanging by ropes around their necks while white persons hidden by white sheets and masks cheered, photos of the backs of black slaves scarred by whip lashes to keep them in their places, and others.

How loud does a black man have to cry out for his already dead momma or for his being able to breathe before the message of racial justice is heard? How many black parents must bury their children before we say that enough is enough? How long can a civilized society be tolerant of such blatant injustices?

Is there any wonder that when these basic questions cannot be answered that people take to the streets with demonstrations to have their voices heard? While some few seek to turn demonstrations into opportunities to loot and burn, we cannot lose sight of the basic message that is being conveyed by the persons in the streets–that it is way past time for change in America.

For those who have been involved in the civil rights movement throughout our lifetime, the incidents of brutality by persons who are supposed to protect us and the hate actions and speech of those who see themselves in some kind of superior position to others are deeply distressing. We can continue to strengthen our laws that protect minorities even as the laws have clear limitations to deter violence. We can support educational programs since so many of the offensive actions come about because of ignorance. We can continue our work to ensure that our laws reflect the kind of justice and fairness that we expect of others. We can speak out in public places to make it clear to all that we stand for justice and fairness for all and that we reject racial superiority. We can join demonstrators who stand for these principles.

Before the brutality in Minneapolis occurred, the pandemic had already pulled off a scab on American society showing economic and racial injustice. The economic injustices that exist in our society have become more obvious, and the inequities of our economic system are becoming more severe. We clearly want the threat to our health from the COVID-19 crisis to pass, but we need to think twice before we seek a return to the unfair system that has developed in our country. We can learn a lot from the observations of our society during a quarantine to seek to improve it as we leave our period of isolation.

With destructive leadership at the national level, we must all step up to fill the breach. We need to work together to stamp out racial injustice in our country.

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