For many of us, we have vivid memories from grade school of saying The Pledge of Allegiance, or “The Pledge” for short. As we spoke the words, we placed our right hand over our heart. It was obviously about patriotism, and the concept that we are all equally entitled to liberty and justice, among other American ideals.
The thing is, there wasn’t a level playing field then, and there isn’t one now. Racism and bigotry have prevented so many individuals from achieving their true potential. It has no place in the United States of America, but still we struggle mightily.
Today there is a movement, one that is being accelerated by perhaps the most diverse, multi-cultural, united front seen in our lifetimes. And today, quite literally, is Juneteenth, a day that marks slaves in Texas finally being freed, more than 2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
Recently I penned the letter below to our team. I hope it inspires them to think and act. Leaders of all stripes must not remain silent. Nothing short of our humanity and our decency is at stake.
As the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said:
As I do from time to time, I am writing now to share my thoughts about this troubling time in our country. We have great challenges in front of us and ahead of us.
Today there is much unrest because we have a country that promises and preaches equal rights for all people, but doesn’t always follow through. In November of 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed during the Gettysburg Address:
All men are created equal. That means ALL men, women, and children whether they be white, black, brown, yellow or even purple and green.
Today we have protests and, yes, sometimes riots, in cities all over the United States. While we do not condone or support violence, these demonstrations are NOT and should not be the focus. They are the symptom and the reaction to a long, very sad history of unequal rights in this country.
Yesterday it was about a black man named Rodney King, today it is about a black man named George Floyd, and tomorrow it will be about someone else if we don’t find a way to live up to our ideal that all men are created equal.
Today the protesters and rioters are angry because another black man was a victim of despicable violence by white policemen. And this time that man died, as a white policeman put his knee on George Floyd’s neck.
Treating people equally is not and should never be about politics. We all have to stand up for equal rights. I have promised you before and I promise you again now that this agency will always be welcome to all people regardless of race, gender, creed, religious, political, or sexual preference. We will, however, never accept or tolerate hate predicated upon race or any other stereotype.
Racism and hate against any group is never OK. It’s up to each of us and all of us to stand up for what is right. If not us, then who? If not now, then when?
P.S. If anyone wants to peacefully demonstrate while also respecting that we are still in the midst of a pandemic that requires distancing, you are welcome to take a day off WITH pay to do so. This agency supports your choice to exercise this right, and stands behind your wish to be heard.