“True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
The tragic death of George Floyd and so many others has sparked a response here in Oklahoma and across the United States which will, I pray, result in change with people’s hearts, minds, and the injustice under protest.
The protests we see, sadly, are nothing new to our nation. Their impact is being amplified through the media and the Internet. As I type this column, I hear news helicopters flying overhead covering the mass gathering demanding changes to a system the protesters feel has failed them.
The spark to this flame was the action by some who should never have held jobs of public responsibility, or certainly should have been removed following a prior incident, as was the case of the officer who killed Mr. Floyd. Please remember that a small percentage of people in authority have failed their brothers and sisters who wear similar uniforms who do the job right, as well as the brothers and sisters who they are sworn to protect in the public.
In turn, the destructive actions of a few vandals and agitators within the protests have led to a response from law enforcement to protect the private property of innocent business owners and residents through forming human barricades, using tear gas, and arresting those who have grown too violent or acted illegally. This excessive action by a few diminishes the message of seeking justice and equality. I fear violence will beget violence in these instances and continue to escalate so long as those with hate in their hearts infiltrate those with good intentions and calmer heads in the middle do not intercede.
Fortunately, we have seen calm heads on both sides intervene to help keep events from escalating. We ask as both organizers and law enforcement officials meet, that each remembers not everyone is part of the small group causing harm. Many leaders – from law enforcement to elected officials, to civic and community leaders calling for change – have joined in this discussion. We are beginning to see that response – and it must continue no matter how uncomfortable the discussion grows.
From the perspective of OICA, we would remind all participating that as children are watching these events unfold, they are learning behaviors. Racism is not innate in human beings; it is a learned behavior. Unless policies are moved from unjust to balances, we will not see the change we desire in the world to end racism.
Ultimately, elected officials have the responsibility to enact the needed change and listen to all their constituents for solutions. I remind people if you genuinely want to see a change for the better, the formula is simple: register to vote, become informed about those seeking your votes, work for those candidates with which you agree, and – finally – vote either absentee or on Election Day.
A protest or a rally might make you feel good at the moment, but if you neglect your only opportunity to have a real voice on who makes these decisions, then you will have failed to make a difference. If you are not registered, the deadline is June 5 for the upcoming Primary Election on June 30. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is June 23 to vote by mail.
The tension we are feeling will hopefully lead to the conversations that are needed and the resulting justice Dr. King spoke of, that we deserve to ensure that all men and women are created equal and have equal protection under the laws we follow as a state and a nation.