The Choice Is Ours to Take Action Against Racial Inequality in America

Amid a pandemic that’s upended our lives, this week proves that nothing has really changed after all.

willy sanjuan / Shutterstock
willy sanjuan / Shutterstock

Recently, for the first time in his professional life, Eric Stine became a full-time remote employee because of the coronavirus pandemic. Each week, he’ll share the highs, lows, and learnings of a WFH newbie. You can read all of his diary entries here

Week Eleven — I Can’t Remember If I Cried When I Read About His Widowed Bride

This was going to be a lighthearted entry about taking a few days off following Memorial Day, going to Long Island’s East End to relax. It would have been puffery about having our quaran-team come out to spend the night; letting our kids swim and eat S’mores. About drinking too much wine and getting bourgeois coffee in Sag Harbor. (I chickened out; it’s deeply disconcerting to buy a latte from someone wearing a face mask.)

But it can’t be, because the murder of George Floyd changed everything, mostly because it proves that nothing has changed.  

George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery. Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Alton Sterling, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, John Crawford III, Philando Castile, and too many others. 

Nothing has changed. 

Once again, we’re signing petitions opposing what amounts to the state-sanctioned murder of Black people. I’m still scared when Shaan, who is part of our family, leaves our house to go out with friends — or simply take a run in the neighborhood. And I am ashamed that during a time of pain, fear, and despair — a time when we should be able to stand together — we have institutions that stoke racial animus and provoke outrage and frustration. 

This is not OK. It is important to say that. With the recent passing of Larry Kramer, it is important to remember the words chosen by ACT UP have never been truer: Silence = Death.

We seem stuck. Stuck in arguments that should have been resolved 150 years ago, or — at minimum — 50 years ago, but are not. 

I choose, for titles of these entries, lyrics from the ‘70s. The greatest era in rock music, yes, but also the time that feels the most like now to me. I was born in 1972 and studied modern American history in college. I remember one of the required texts for the unit on the ‘70s was titled, “It Seemed Like Nothing Happened.” In truth, however, to quote a popular phrase of the time period: “It’s all happening.”

So much upheaval and turmoil, railing and rioting — and to what effect? We’ve been watching the outstanding limited series on Hulu, “Mrs. America,” and the issues tackled then — abortion, equal pay — are very much topics of discussion today. Just turn on the news; you might as well be watching Watts burn, again. It is disheartening and dispiriting, and makes me worry that we’ve gotten so distracted by a government that only wants to keep us at each other’s throats that we’ve lost all understanding of community or compassion. That the whole purpose of the American experiment is to strive for higher ideals, to live in a nation free from oppression, and to uphold the natural rights of all human beings. 

Black Lives Matter. If we are going to wash away the original sin of slavery then it is time to end the systemic oppression of Black and Brown people in this country.

Together we must re-examine the institutions that systematically oppress our friends, our colleagues, and our fellow citizens. We must recognize that white supremacy exists in these institutions; we must acknowledge that power and privilege are unequally distributed within them; we must listen to the voices of those who are disenfranchised or oppressed in order to transform these institutions in the mold of justice and equality.

Fifty-five years ago, Malcolm X stood in New York City and said: “You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” I see this not as a call to arms, but a call to action. The choice is ours. 

Neil and I have 4-year-old children. We try to teach them the civic lessons out parents taught us. We teach them about fairness, but the world is unfair. We teach them about justice, but the world is unjust. And we teach them that the policeman is their friend; he will help keep them safe. How sad that the things we tell our children are untrue for so many. Stand up, speak out. It’s time to change that.

Working From Home in the New Normal is a data-driven storytelling initiative from SAP and Thrive Global, bringing together insights powered by the Qualtrics Remote Work Pulse with actionable Microsteps and stories from Thrive to help you navigate working from home. Visit daily for the latest data and stories to help improve your focus, prioritization, and well-being.

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