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Turning Pain into Purpose

Now is a time to grieve. But it is also a time to organize and demand justice.

June 2, 2020
Stephen Maturen/Getty
Stephen Maturen/Getty

This is a time of pain, righteous anger, and sorrow for our country. 

The killing by police officers of George Floyd demands justice and accountability. It reflects the deep structural racism evident in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, in racialized threats of violence in Central Park, and in similar events in so many communities for so many centuries. This hurt runs especially deep among Black Americans. If we are to heal as a nation it must be shared and understood by all Americans.

This past week, thousands took to the streets to speak out. At this very moment, the president has chosen to threaten violence, spew hate, and brandish the use of the military. On Monday, to make way for a grotesque photo op, nonviolent protesters were cleared from Lafayette Square outside the White House by flash bombs, tear gas, and rubber bullets, all so the president could strut through and brandish a Bible. Black Hawk helicopters buzzed civilian neighborhoods at rooftop height in an effort to scare demonstrators. It was a low point in the long history of the American presidency.

The abuse of executive power does not only pose an abstract risk for the Constitution. Throughout our history, it has been wielded, especially, at communities of color. We saw that in the use of a phony “emergency” to build a wall aimed at demonizing Latinos. We saw it, too, in the illegal executive order banning travelers from many predominantly Muslim countries in the first days of this presidency.

At the Brennan Center, we will continue our fight for voting rights, to end mass incarceration, for fair representation, to fight for the Constitution, to ensure America lives up to promises made long ago that have never been realized.

It is a time for good people everywhere to speak with one voice. To root out racism, uphold justice, and strengthen our democracy so it works for all — and especially for those so long marginalized. To grieve, and also to organize. Together we can turn pain into purpose.