Robinson Bradshaw Stands Against Racism

June 11, 2020

On Memorial Day weekend, our country watched in shock and horror as police officer Derek Chauvin took almost nine minutes to suffocate George Floyd on a Minneapolis street corner. Chauvin’s three partners watched—and did nothing. Floyd was unarmed and handcuffed when he died. In his last breaths, he cried out for his mother. 

The only thing more shocking or horrific about this scene is that it occurs all too often. Just two months ago, Breonna Taylor was shot and killed in Louisville, Kentucky, by officers who burst into her apartment executing a “no-knock” warrant. Closer to home, Walter Scott was shot in the back and killed in 2016 while running away from a traffic stop in North Charleston. Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Natasha McKenna in Virginia, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Ezell Ford in Los Angeles, Eric Garner in New York, Laquan McDonald (a 17-year-old shot 16 times) in Chicago. That incomplete list of unarmed Black Americans who died at the hands of police goes back only five years. It is a long and shameful list. 

There are many, many police officers—of all races, genders and creeds—who serve our communities honorably and well. They put their lives on the line every day to protect us, and they deserve our highest gratitude and respect. But a sacred public trust comes with the badge. That so many police officers have breached that trust by killing our unarmed Black citizens shows that the problem is not isolated. It is systemic, pernicious and real.

We are all created equally. But we do not all live equally. Some of us can walk down any street, in any outfit, without ever being noticed by authorities. Others of us, no matter how well we are dressed, have to worry about explaining ourselves. Some of us can walk into any retail store and browse at our leisure. Others of us have to suffer the humiliation of security guards who think we might steal something. Some of us worry that our children might get a speeding ticket when they get pulled over. Others of us fear they might get shot.

Many of us suffer the burdens of these unjust distinctions every day. Others of us don’t experience them at all. Indeed, those of us who aren’t Black and who work in institutions of privilege and influence have been in a position to ignore these distinctions or pretend they do not exist.

Our country cannot afford to pretend anymore. George Floyd’s death has exposed once again the corrupting wound of racism in our society—one that we all must acknowledge before we can begin to heal it. Failing to speak up—or to admit the extent of the challenge we are facing—will only perpetuate the problem. Dr. King knew as much, when he decried the “appalling silence of the good people” as an ongoing impediment to social justice.

Spurred by these words and the inspiring examples of others over the past two weeks, we here at Robinson Bradshaw are committed to doing more. We are starting internally, with candid discussions about what we should be doing to achieve racial justice. We know these conversations will be challenging, and at times uncomfortable. But without straight talk and transparency on critical issues of racism and implicit bias, we won’t be able to build the awareness and understanding that make effective action possible.

We will then take action to promote racial justice and inclusion. We are committed to fostering the candid discussions with others in our local communities that promote understanding. And we look forward to partnering with community organizations that have been laboring to make our society more equal and just.

We’re making this public statement—not to moralize or preach—but because we hope you will join us in this effort. If the events of the last two weeks have taught us anything, it’s that positive concerted action can achieve dramatic results. We work harder and better when we work together.

So please join us. Reach out to your friends, neighbors and co-workers—including those who lead lives differently than yours—and start the uncomfortable conversations that will help us all recognize the challenges we are facing. Support your community leaders who are models for constructive change. Give your time and talents to local organizations that are working to achieve equality and justice. Together, we can all work and hope for the day when the practices and states of mind that led to the death of George Floyd—and so many before him—are gone for good.

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