This week marks the beginning of the Chauvin trial for the murder of George Floyd. I have been asked a couple of questions about this and my thoughts on the trial.
First, let me tell you that this trial started a few hundred years ago when slavery gripped this nation, and the injustice of systemic racism has been with us ever since. I see this trial as an indication of how our laws are formed and who they protect. I keep reminding myself that this trial is only a symptom of the problem. Police brutality and racist policies that have gripped our nation still have a foothold on the front entry to our community. We have seen the response and the misguided notion that Black and Brown persons are responsible for getting this country out of this mess.
On April 16, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his now famous letter from Birmingham jail. In this letter King states, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. At this time of the writing Birmingham was one of the most disturbed cities in the United States. The courts were corrupt, bombings were frequent in black churches and homes, racism and segregation were a daily reality that Black people faced. Reverend King lamented the fact that churches had become complacent and the long history of racism in the country demanded such action to restore the beauty of the human soul.
So, I ask -- is today any different than the day that Martin Luther King Jr. wrote the letter from that tiny jail cell? We celebrate freedoms that might be an illusion to those of us that have privilege and feel discourage as our brothers and sisters still struggle with that very system. We face this everyday at 180 Degrees. The high number of Black and Brown people we serve is proof that we have not overcome the system that perpetuates racism in our courts, policing, and social and economic structures.
This is the terrible news that we all have to live with day in and day out in this work. We can’t escape the fact that this trial has us all sitting in the jury box. That this trial represents the system that was built upon corrupt laws, segregation and red lining. That this trial represents who we are as a people in this city, state, and country at this time in history.
What will this look like 50 years from now? Will we be different? Each one of us must answer this question and search our soul for the truthful and honest response.
For over thirty years, CEO Dan Pfarr has been on the front lines of the human services community, working to lift-up youth, adults, and families in crisis. His focus on trauma-informed care helps shape the direction of 180 Degrees and inspire a team of nearly one hundred employees. As a multi-cultural organization with staff and clients who have suffered a life of prejudice and inequality, 180 Degrees continues prioritizing discussion and action against a system of racial injustice.