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COLUMNS

From the Supervisor: Racism is a public health crisis

William Moehle

“In the midst of a pandemic, a pandemic occurred.” Racism is itself a public health crisis, and we must treat racism and its systemic impact on our entire community just as seriously as we have treated COVID-19. We have seen the COVID-19 pandemic affect communities of color most severely, because those communities have not had equal access to health care.

The murder of Mr. George Floyd and the murder or brutality that for too long has been directed at other people of color is, of course, another manifestation of systemic racism. Today, we face a pandemic of COVID, occurring within a preexisting pandemic of racism, but I believe that together, with our words, and especially with our actions, we can impact the course of both of these pandemics.

On June 10, I began a meeting of the Brighton Town Board by asking participants to kneel and observe a minute of silence in memory of the life and death of Mr. George Floyd, with these words:

“I would like to begin tonight’s meeting by asking if you are physically able to kneel, to join me in kneeling for one minute, to honor the life of Mr. George Floyd, and to recognize that Black Lives Matter, in Brighton and in our nation.

“Last Saturday, students and alumni from Brighton High School organized and conducted a rally in the Twelve Corners and a march from there to Buckland Park. They rallied … we rallied … for justice and to send the unquestionable message that Black Lives Matter. The rally included excellent student speakers and a riveting poetry reading, a wake up call really.

“Most importantly, it began with an eight minute, 46-second silence, while we each kneeled and contemplated the last minutes of Mr. Floyd’s life. Those eight minutes and 46 seconds felt like an eternity; for Mr. George Floyd, they were an eternity. I call on each and every one of us in Brighton to examine and challenge our belief systems, and to recognize that systemic racism is a reality, a reality that hampers all of us in achieving our full potential, because it undermines us in reaching the reconciliation and redemption that Dr. Martin Luther King said leads to the creation of the beloved community.

“Dr. King said, ‘our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls, as well as a quantitative change in our lives.’ What I saw in those students on Saturday was a quest for redemption, a quest for reconciliation, a quest for justice without violence, a quest for the kind of quantitative change in our lives that will create Dr. King’s beloved community.

“I want to thank every one of the organizers of the rally, and everyone that participated, in the hope that as Dr. King said, your work will bend the long arc of the moral universe toward justice. But I also want to remind you of the words of former Attorney General Eric Holder, who said, ‘the arc bends toward justice, but it only bends toward justice because people pull it towards justice. It doesn’t happen on its own.’

“The people who rallied on Saturday are pulling the arc toward justice, and it behooves all of us to listen and to join in.”

William Moehle serves as supervisor for the town of Brighton.