These are indeed difficult times. For the past three months we’ve faced the challenge of an unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, widespread economic calamity, and an uncertain future. For the past several days, we’ve experienced civil unrest on a national scale that hasn’t been seen in nearly two generations, and I know that’s concerning to you all.
Ignited by the brutal killing of George Floyd on May 25th by Minneapolis police officers, this may seem like a sudden, overreaction to a single event. However, police brutality and the excessive use of force has long been the norm for many of our fellow Americans.
What we’re all witnessing is the sum total of several decades and generations of frustration, exasperated by COVID-19, financial stress, and a sense of hopelessness. When asked about the riots in the summer of 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said “…a riot is the language of the unheard. And, what is it that America has failed to hear?” Fifty-four years later, here we are again.
This is not to say America has not improved over time, it has. As proof, all one needs to do is look at the contrast in the racial composition of crowds today versus the past. There is a kaleidoscope of Americans bound together, all demanding justice and equity for each and every person. It’s that kind of empathy, attempting to see the world through the eyes and experiences of another, which will get us through the myriad of challenges.
We are all in a unique position to help our communities work through these difficult issues, as it is what we do on a daily basis with the intellectual and developmentally disabled persons we serve. Through our actions and engagement, we work hard to ensure that persons living with disabilities are given the same access to public spaces as others. We fight for their right to a job, and we help them live the independent lives to which they are entitled. Let’s use that same spirit to empower our fellow Americans, too.
We will get through this together!
Charles “Chip” Huggins, JD