Our hearts have been heavy these past weeks, and now our Southwest Initiative Foundation team takes a collective breath, filling ourselves with hope.
We take a step toward a better future for all as an officer is held accountable for the murder of George Floyd. Mr. Floyd’s life and death have awakened so many to the disparities that separate us along racial and economic lines and put us as Minnesotans in the spotlight to address them. We stand up against racism, discrimination and hate.
Our deep sadness at the death of Daunte Wright—the loss of yet another Black man—is not gone. He is a fellow Minnesotan and young person who held a lifetime of potential. And his police encounter stands in stark contrast to that of a white man who turned violent in our community of Hutchinson last week.
We continue to wrestle with the complicated realities of race. I know law enforcement officers who serve with integrity and treat all residents with dignity and respect as they ensure the safety of our communities. I also know Black, Indigenous and people of color who have been dehumanized by police and a system that doesn’t work the same for everyone. Our country must face its centuries of racial oppression and biases now.
We must get to a place where skin color no longer predicts the outcome of an interaction with law enforcement. Or annual income. Or graduation from high school. Or health care access. Or homeownership. Or in what neighborhood a home can be purchased. Southwest Initiative Foundation believes that dignity and belonging are core human values, and that our communities are strongest when all people can fully participate in our region’s opportunities.
We’re facing big, complicated problems. So many people are experiencing trauma and pain. But we can be part of the solutions and help healing begin with small, everyday actions. I recently read powerful words by writer adrienne maree brown:
“We are socialized to see what is wrong, missing, off, to tear down the ideas of others and uplift our own. To a certain degree, our entire future may depend on learning to listen, listen without assumptions or defenses.”
Instead of closing ourselves off to people who we perceive as different or not aligned with our beliefs, let’s open ourselves to real connections with people whose experiences are different from our own. Let’s put empathy and kindness first, and look for our shared values, —and move forward from there. We have a long way to go, and filled with hope we can keep going together.