Only if we restore unity.
by Alexis Glick
All my life, from earliest childhood, I’ve been taught and encouraged to use words to express what I’m feeling. When I’m struggling with what to say, I take pen to paper. If I’m scared or angry, proud or grateful, concerned or in need of help — words clarify, reflect my soul, tell me who I am as a human being, illuminate my emotions, and help me to remember and reclaim my rights.
But what happens when your very words are taken from you?
I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. Please. I can’t breathe
When your words are ignored.
I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. Please. I can’t breathe.
How is it that some of us grow up thinking our words don’t matter because of the color of our skin? How can it be that, heartbreakingly, children are being taught to rehearse a set of answers should they need to interact with a police officer without being harmed?
Have we really gotten to the point where we need politicians and lawyers to tell us — to advocate for and defend — our basic rights? Last I checked, they were called unalienable. Things like:
· Acting in self-defense.
· Owning private property.
· Working and enjoying the fruits of one’s labor.
· Moving freely within the country, or to another country.
· Worshiping or refraining from worshiping within a freely chosen religion.
· Being secure in one’s home.
· Thinking freely.
In forgetting or ignoring these guaranteed liberties, have we abdicated human decency? Allowed the degradation of commonly held beliefs that make us a nation? You’re damn right we have.
I can’t help but wonder what would make someone think that holding a knee to a man’s neck, on the ground, for 8 minutes and 46 seconds is acceptable. That is 526 seconds. 526 seconds! Think about a child being taught to play hide and seek: 1 Mississippi 2 Mississippi 3 Mississippi . . .
It’s unconscionable. It’s incorrigible. It’s unimaginable. It’s unfathomable. Where were George Floyd’s unalienable rights in that moment? What has happened to us?
We have a clear choice to make at this moment: to unite to oppose the common enemies of racism, bigotry, hatred, violence, and class division. Period. And we must do it together. Because racism is a killer every bit as deadly as the one we’ve been struggling with for the past three months, COVID-19.
For too long at the beginning of that pandemic, conspiracy theorists argued about the reality of COVID-19. The result was that 100,000 lives were lost — and counting. That’s not an abstract number: those are lives lost.
Let’s not make the same mistake now, in the pandemic of racism, the one that causes such pain to the black lives that matter so much to the fabric of our great nation. They are our people, our family, our friends, our loved ones, our neighbors, our teachers, our children. Their pain is hidden away from far too many of us, but the racism they feel, and the lives of black men that are being taken, is making them afraid to walk the streets without looking over their shoulders.
We can no longer allow their voices to be drowned out by brutality and a failure of human decency.
We are in a time when this country is searching for a way to heal from one of the deadliest moments in American history, in which over 40 million Americans have lost their jobs, countless small businesses have shuttered, and tens of millions of Americans don’t know where they’re going to get their next meal.
As if that weren’t bad enough, we are reminded in George Floyd’s death of our failure to adhere to our most basic American tenet: our faith in, and our care for, one another. The trust we should have in those who are supposed to protect us, and those whom we elect to carry our voice forward, is slipping away.
Friends, we have lost our way. We are no longer a single, unified America. We are red or blue. Right or left. Conservative or liberal. Republican or Democrat. MAGA or Progressive. The heartland or the coasts. Very rich or very poor. And yes, black or white.
Our civic life is bifurcated. We live a never-ending contest between two sides, two points of view, playing a perverse home-and-away game that provides the conflict that, absurdly, fuels everything we think and do. Who you are is defined by who you stand in opposition to. This is a recipe for disaster, and we are seeing it writ large right now in cities on fire across the country.
As someone who has dedicated the last decade of my career to America’s public school children, where the “minority” is now the majority, I cannot stay silent.
I believe the present ugliness and vitriol will pass. And we will stand together again, as one America. Let this moment remind us that our words and our actions matter. That your voice matters. That your actions in the face of hate matter. That your ability to protest matters. And most important, that your rights, and your life, matter.
If God is good, as he surely is, what unifies us forever as Americans will triumph over whatever, and whomever, aims to separate us. Can we heal? Yes, we can. I have faith. I believe we will. But first, we have to love another, protect one another, trust one another and stand up for one another as the one great people we are, in unity.
E pluribus unum. Out of many, one.
Alexis Glick is Chief Executive Officer of GENYOUth, a nonprofit organization dedicated to nurturing child health and wellness through programs presented in partnership with the National Football League and the National Dairy Council. Glick also serves as a frequent contributor to many national and international news programs, providing her perspective on global business topics of importance, the financial markets and CEO leadership trends. Prior to GENYOUth’s inception, Glick helped launch Fox Business network, where she served as Vice President of Business News and anchored “Money for Breakfast.” Glick previously served as anchor on NBC’s Today Show and CNBC’s Squawk Box. In addition to her executive responsibilities at GENYOUth, and enjoying her active role as mom to four kids, Glick is active in several national and local non-profit institutions. She is a frequent, strategic advisor to CEOs for some of the largest international, blue-chip and Fortune 500 companies on issues relating to media strategy, business development, investor relations and communications and advises professional athletes on social media, branding and public speaking.