The Nation Takes A Collective BreathAlicia B. Harvey-Smith | President and CEO, Pittsburgh Technical College
The right words and actions hold tremendous value and power in healing and transforming a nation. As leaders from around the world release strong and heartfelt statements on the continued need for social justice, I stand with them on the importance and necessity of this call to action.
I join also with leaders requesting the elevation of the current level of discourse, coupled with the required actions to enact lasting change, during a moment when the world feels as if it can’t breathe.
As we take a collective breath, to clear the air tainted with the haze of tear gas and confusion, some grapple with a lack of understanding of the historic relevance of this moment. Others bemoan a wound in the heart as they witnessed the senseless murder in Minneapolis of George Floyd, an unarmed man, at the hands and knees of those sworn to serve and protect.
These are indeed trying times and a change is in the air. I am so very proud of the hundreds of thousands of peaceful protestors who are outraged by white supremacy, police brutality, systemic racism and violence, and the many other injustices facing the Black community, people of color more broadly, and different marginalized identities.
We must not turn away, nor should we. We must breathe in the pain of this moment. It is our obligation. We must stand and face what is before us and unite in the hope and work of a better tomorrow. A tomorrow where all men and women respect the humanity of others and the dignity of all life.
I waited and reflected on when to speak and what to say. I carefully considered each thought, each word, aware of the myriad of reactions they may generate.
For days, I have watched and listened, and I have felt. For days, I have received notes, texts and emails, checking on me, expressing their love for me, my husband–a retired Army and US Capital Police Officer–and my family during this unprecedented time of unrest in our country. Several people have asked, “What can I do to make change happen and to make a difference?” My answer is simple: Look, listen, open your eyes, open your hearts, and stand for humanity and social justice.
As protest continue across the nation and around the world, throughout Europe; in England, Paris, Ireland, and in Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, China, and the Continent of Africa–resounding cries ring out for a new normal, a new way of being; this is a universal plea.
For those struggling to understand the cries in the wind, imagine if you can, your child or even pet, with a knee placed firmly in the center of their necks for eight minutes and forty-six seconds. And when they became unresponsive, that very same knee, remained and applied force for another two minutes. As horrible as this is to even imagine, this is what occurred in Minneapolis.
This is the reason why America and our world cries. The cries are for an even more uncertain future, the cries are because a critical mass of humanity gasps in unison as we felt the pain of this unprecedented reflection point, where our world witnessed together, repeatedly, a moment when humanity could not breathe. In that moment, the world understood that not responding was not an option. It became clear at that moment that the response needed to be urgent and insistent.
I understand that some will continue to find this hard to understand, as this may not be your lived experience and that even the response and outcry is puzzling and confusing. These concerns are real; the fears and abuses are real; these are the lived experience for many and have been an integral component of too many communities for far too long, perpetuated by systems of bias and injustice.
It is only when we acknowledge, respect and welcome diversity of experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives that we truly grow. It is through diversity and education that we gain better approaches, better solutions, better lives.
To this end, I ask you to please join me in whispering a prayer and taking a moment of silence for George Floyd, his family, and our nation; so that together we can work toward finding the beauty and strength required to make the bold and lasting changes our nation and world so desperately need.
Author Perspective: Administrator