With all that is going on in our country today, I wasn’t sure that this would be another Sunday on which I would share Governor Cuomo’s words. Then I heard him speak this morning and felt bad that I hadn’t trusted he would say words we need to hear.
Sunday with Governor Cuomo: Our challenge today
Last night was a long and ugly night all across this nation.
People are outraged and I understand that. I am outraged. It’s not just George Floyd’s killing, though that’s enough to outrage a nation. It’s George Floyd, it’s Ahmaud Arbery, it’s Breona Taylor—all just in the past three months. It’s thirty years of Rodney King and Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell and Abner Louima—the same case in states all across this nation, where only the name changes but the color stays the same.
Now at the same time, it is equally true that violence never works.
It dishonors Mr. Floyd’s death. Mr. Floyd was not violent. Mr. Floyd was compliant. Mr. Floyd wasn’t even charged or accused of a violent crime. That’s what makes the killing more outrageous. When you are violent, it creates a scapegoat to shift the blame. It allows the president of the United States to tweet about looting rather than murder by a police officer. It allows the federal government to politicize what’s going on, and to come up with theories blaming the left and the extreme left, which only furthers the politics of division.
Maya Angelou said, “Hate has caused a lot of problems in the world, but it has not solved one yet.” The goal has to be effecting change. How do you use the energy to mobilize people to actually reform society and make things better? And don’t tell me that we can’t change, because we know we have and we can.
We created a new civil right in this nation for the LGBTQ community when we passed Marriage Equality. After the Sandy Hook massacre, when people saw the madness of an assault weapon killing children, we passed common sense gun reform in this state, after decades of trying. When we had record income inequality, and people said enough is enough, that’s when we passed free college tuition, and we passed a minimum wage where people can actually live decently.
People can change. And we have seen that lesson over the past 92 days. Who changed society to deal with this virus? The people did it. Fifty days ago, on April 12, we lost 800 people from COVID. Yesterday, we lost 56. Sixty days ago, we had 3,400 people come into our hospitals. Yesterday, we had 191. Who did that? Government leaders? No. Let’s be honest. Most government leaders denied that COVID was a problem. Most didn’t know what to do and if they knew what to do, they didn’t know how to do it. It wasn’t government. It was “We, the people” and we did it in weeks, literally.
And our challenge today is to use this moment, use this energy constructively and demand real positive change. And articulate what the change is that we want. Be specific. We know what should be done, and we know what should be done immediately.
Demand that the federal government and every state government pass a law that says allegations of police abuse cannot be investigated by local prosecutors because self-policing does not work, period. Allegations must be investigated by an independent outside agency.
Demand that we define excessive force by a police officer by one standard all across this nation, so every American lives by the same standard. If a police officer is accused of wrongdoing and is being investigated, release their disciplinary records, so people can see what the prior acts of that police officer were.
Demand that every public school provide the same level of funding for a child, so we don’t have two education systems in this nation, one for the rich and one for the poor. There is no reason, and no excuse, today, for any child to live in poverty. Demand that change. And if our government leaders won’t do it, or can’t do it, or don’t know how to do it, then you vote them out.
Most Americans are good, fair-minded, decent, kind, loving individuals. We need to mobilize the best in our people rather than allowing the worst. But don’t lose the passion, don’t lose the outrage. Be frustrated. But be smart, and be directed, and be constructive and destructive. Be a laser and focus on real, positive change.
That’s how this moment becomes a different moment in the history books. That’s how George Floyd’s death does not become just another name in a long list of people who should have never died in the first place. George Floyd must not have died in vain. Mr. Floyd’s killing must be a moment in which this nation actually learned and grew and progressed to make this place a better place. And we can do it.
Here’s the link to a list of organizations we can support, as well as an article on things white people can do for racial justice.