Greensboro. Ferguson. Minneapolis. Jimmie Lee Jackson. Ahmaud Arbery. George Floyd. From activists to innocent pedestrians, those places and people are just a few in the long, and frankly shameful, history of black Americans’ struggle for equality in this country. Right now, Minneapolis is on fire. The country seems to grow more polarized with each passing day and most people don’t know what to do.
We cannot, as we have so often done in the past, move on after our brief outrage blitz on social media. We cannot let another in a long line of crucial moments pass. We must demand better of ourselves, each other, and our society. George Floyd cannot be allowed to die in vain.
This is a chance to confront the injustices that black Americans have faced in their everyday lives for too long. This. Is. Our. Chance. Our Chance to confront these injustices together. “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Abraham Lincoln’s words from the floor of the Illinois Republican Convention in 1858 still ring as true as ever today. Divided our society cannot succeed, we cannot progress and we will fail.
This event, this moment, demands action. We must beseech our leaders to step up and confront this issue of inequality. We must overhaul our society, which for too long has allowed the suppression of the rights of minorities. We as a country must draw a line in the sand and say another black life lost to police brutality can no longer be something we should have to grow accustomed to hearing about in the news.
As the late Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.” Where will the chronicles of history say we, as a society, stood in this moment? We must fight back. We must change.
Right now, so many of us are angry, upset, and want to do something. However, the obvious action escapes us. Unfortunately, there is no one right answer, no action that is a blanket solution for everything, and that, is a tough place to start. But that’s just where we are.
We are in a place where the path forward is unclear and seemingly insurmountable, alone. Our duty as a society is to carve out a path where there is none, to pave the way forward as a country. We can do this in many ways. But our new path starts with a consensus. What happened in Minneapolis to George Floyd, in Georgia to Ahmaud Arbery, to so many others in so many other places over the decades of our history, was murder and was preventable.
These painful memories cannot be forgotten, nor should they be avoided. We must remember our painful history and not allow ourselves to walk away once again. We must stand together, united, and listen. Listen to the oppressed and say to them “I hear you, I want to change. I want us to change.” Alone, we cannot carve a new path to the society we hope to see. As Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “The point in history at which we stand is full of promise and danger. The world will either move forward toward unity and widely shared prosperity — or it will move apart.”
Liam Harrigan of Bangor will be a first-year student at the University of Maine School of Law in the fall.