Like many of you, I watched as Atlanta and so many other cities across the country erupted with raw rage and grief at the racist murders of black men and women. The murderers who committed these crimes did so with the knowledge that our justice system is rigged to protect them.
Let that sink in. We ask people of color to trust their lives and freedom to the government, to the police, to their neighbors, and we betray them again and again and again.
Racism is so deeply ingrained in our communities that sometimes it stares us in the face and we don’t even see it. Grady Memorial Hospital, for example, is named after Henry W. Grady, who publicly stated in 1888 that, “The supremacy of the white race of the South must be maintained forever.”
Last December, a group of Georgia State University students asked for the downtown statue of Henry Grady to be relocated to the Atlanta History Center. Their activism hit a brick wall when they learned that the legislature’s majority party had recently passed a law making it illegal to relocate most monuments. Instead, the students had to settle on asking for a contextual plaque to be placed on the statue. To my knowledge, that plaque has never been placed.
In two weeks, the legislature will convene to finish the 2020 legislative session, and I am committed to pushing forward the stalled Hate Crimes legislation, HB 426. It passed the House with bipartisan support and currently is being held up in the Senate Judiciary Committee by Committee Chair Sen. Jesse Stone. Sen. Stone lives in the same small town of Waynesboro where Ahmaud Arbery is now buried.
Passing and implementing a Hate Crimes bill will not end racism – that is a complex issue whose roots lie deep.
But passing the Hate Crimes Bill will give us one more tool to reject and penalize racist actions.
Black lives matter. The anger and pain black people and other communities of color feel right now matters.
For our society to find healing and peace, those of us in powerful and privileged positions have to earnestly and in good faith rebuild a trust that we have repeatedly broken.
We all can start this work in a small way today.
Email or call Sen. Stone (firstname.lastname@example.org or 404-463-1314) and demand that he move the Hate Crimes bill out of the Judiciary Committee with his full support for its passage in the State Senate. Tell him to do this in memory of his neighbor, Ahmaud Arbery. Tell him to do this because the loss of black lives matters.