We are, at this moment, a nation in anguish. The pain and anger bringing people to the street in demonstrations across the country was sparked by police brutality, but it is fueled by myriad longstanding injustices and inequalities.
At NLSLA we see the result of these entrenched disparities every day. We see it in our clients’ tenuous grip on stable housing, in their lack of access to basic healthcare, in their economic struggles, and in their lack of access to justice.
The COVID-19 pandemic has both underscored and significantly exacerbated these disparities. People living on the margins became destitute, almost overnight. While some families stock their fridge with food to last for months, others wait in long lines at food banks. While some lament the challenges of working from home, others must risk their health each day in jobs that are suddenly considered essential but that offer little pay and few, if any, protections. The virus has not been, as some have suggested, an equalizer. Rather, it has shown us how fractured we really are.
And it is in this fragile state that we all watched, in horror, the 8 minutes and 46 seconds that would bring a nation to its knees. To some of us, the video of police officers killing George Floyd – an unarmed Black man – was shocking. To others, it was a familiar heartbreak – another collective trauma to weave into the experience of being Black in America.
We can only hope that this difficult moment compels us, finally, to change direction. To look with clear eyes at the systemic racism that has plagued our country and our institutions. NLSLA was formed in the belief that the law could be a powerful tool to fight for individual rights and social change. We will honor George Floyd by committing to change – in our own lives, here at NLSLA, and in our wider communities.
Martin Luther King said “True peace is not merely the absence of tension, it is the presence of justice.” Tonight I wish all of us more justice.
Yvonne Mariajimenez, President & CEO