Shock. Anger. Sadness. Numbness. Exhaustion. Disbelief. Fear. These are just a fraction of the emotions I have experienced while trying to process the tragic events of these past several days. I expect many of you have felt similar emotions.
The Memorial Day image of George Floyd uttering “I can’t breathe” while pleading for his life will be forever etched in our memories. A Minneapolis police officer, duty-bound to protect human life, instead – with his knee planted on Mr. Floyd’s neck – slowly suffocated him while his fellow officers stood by watching. An unconscionable act, and tragically not the first of its kind.
Earlier that same day, Christian Cooper, a Black man who was birdwatching in New York’s Central Park, politely asked a white woman to leash her dog as required by park rules. Rather than obey the law and comply with his simple request, she threatened to call the police. "I'm going to tell them there's an African American man threatening my life," she shouted. And she did.
In a world already reeling from a global pandemic disproportionately impacting communities of color, the murder of George Floyd and the incident in Central Park broke the dam of pent up feelings. Protesters – across the United States and around the world – have poured into the streets, demanding justice and systemic change.
There are no quick fixes for the centuries of systemic racism that led to George Floyd’s death (and countless other Black men and women in this country) at the hands of white police officers. Or the same systemic racism that disadvantages Black and Brown people when pandemics strike – or in gaining access to housing, healthcare, jobs, education and credit.
But there are things that we individually and collectively can and must do immediately to start bringing about change. Now is the time to act.
At the DC Bar Foundation our mission is to invest in justice. We are committed to working with others to transform the District’s civil legal aid network so that all residents can have a fair and equal legal experience.
One of our strategies for transforming DC’s civil legal aid network calls for infusing racial justice and equity in all of our work. For the Foundation, this means evolving our practices and culture to learn, reflect, unlearn, and make changes in the pursuit of justice.
We are committed to studying best practices to learn about racial justice and equity initiatives. And we are committed to partnering with others, to align efforts as the Foundation integrates racial justice and equity initiatives into the fabric of our work.
May our witness to these most recent events stir every last one of us to be an active part of the change that is necessary if all Americans are to be treated with dignity and justice.
Kirra L. Jarratt
Chief Executive Officer