Our country is in the midst of a social, health, and economic crisis. 106,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, over 40 million are unemployed, and another unarmed black man was killed by a police officer.
I have rarely seen this much fear, unrest, anger and division in our country. The rhetoric from the White House tears us further apart.
I was enraged by the video of George Floyd dying under the knee of a police officer. I mourn his tragic death. I also mourn the senseless death of Pinole resident Patrick Underwood, a Federal Security Officer killed during the looting in Oakland. My thoughts and condolences are with both families.
I strongly support those who are peacefully and courageously protesting to reform our criminal justice system and end the racism, inequality and bias that exists in too many of our country's institutions and power structures.
The overwhelming majority of protestors are peaceful. Unfortunately, this brave and important protest is being hijacked by some who are violent and destroying our neighborhoods, including small family-owned businesses.
Some of this violence comes out of genuine anger at the long-standing racism and inequality of our society.
And some of the violence is mere opportunism for those few who wish to loot and ransack and has nothing to do with protesting the death of George Floyd; they are using these protests for their own agendas.
Both types of violence cause unacceptable pain and suffering in communities already struggling to rebuild and improve.
The looting is taking our attention away from the real issue - racism and injustice in America. We can't let this happen. We need to stay focused on calling out and ending racism and recognizing the role that "white privilege" plays in furthering inequality.
I understand that the inherent advantages enjoyed by a white person like myself have contributed to my success. The opportunities I've had have helped me develop a career trying to change the status quo, and make our communities just for all.
Others advocate for change in other ways.
We all have a choice -- we can speak out or work against the structures and policies that lead to a nation where unarmed black men and women are tragically killed by police or vigilantes, or we can just say that we're not part of the problem and it's up to others to fix it.
Indifference makes us complicit.
We need to commit ourselves to actively working for justice and not be the "white moderates" that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. talked about - those who are "more devoted to 'order' than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice."
With urgency, let's express our rage, anger and concern as a unified rejection of racism. Some of us can do this through work. For others it may be a conversation, a vote, a protest, or signing a petition.
Let's reject violence on this path.
Here in Contra Costa County, I am grateful for so many allies and leaders from all backgrounds who have worked and fought for years to build a more equitable, fairer, and healthier community. This includes the majority of our local law enforcement who work hard to maintain cooperative relations with our communities. Many have decried what they saw in Minneapolis.
As civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis said - "find a way to get in the way...make some noise and get in good trouble to make our country a better place."
Even in times like these, there are reasons for hope and optimism.
I see this hope in the kind acts of those unselfishly helping others get through the COVID-19 pandemic and in the peaceful protests of many who are fighting to make our institutions just and fair for all Americans.
This is a time for reflection and action.