By Sheryl Lilly Pidgeon | goodlifefamilymag.com
As a Jewish mom, raising my children in a predominately non-Jewish world has had its share of challenges. Our history of persecution is well documented. Conversations about the Holocaust and injustices of every kind saturate our household. I raised my children (now young adults) to be upstanders and to know without pause that bystanders are complicit. We have a Hebrew saying, Tikkun Olam, which translates to “repair the world” and is synonymous with the notion of social action and the pursuit of social justice. My family has been heartbroken and outraged by the murder of George Floyd and so many others, along with the racial inequalities and injustices that have plagued our nation for generations.
We stand in solidarity with the Black community as they yet again are subject to pain and suffering at the hands of a racist and unjust system. A criminal is a criminal, and there must be even MORE accountability when the crime is committed by a person in a position of power by the very nature of the level of trust that is placed in that person.
As a board member of the ADL, an anti-hate organization founded in 1913 with a mission to secure justice and fair treatment for ALL, I’ve been able to continue my life-long passion to be a part of the solution.
We are a country in mourning. George Floyd, a dad, a brother, a friend to so many is no longer with us. A despicable murder caught on video. I have to admit that when I first saw it, my mind could not register what was happening. I literally could not believe my own eyes because to believe them would mean a level of evil that is nearly impossible to process.
We must be vigilant to expose the level of hate and bigotry that exists in our country and around the world. We can start with stepping up, whatever that means to you. Watch the news. Get educated. Donate needed funds. Mentor a young person. Sign a petition. Be an upstander. Vote.
As a journalist and more so as a mother, I feel it is my responsibility to be a megaphone for hope and unity, to meet this moment in history by being a part of the resetting of America, and to be a voice for not just what is, but for what should be. It’s not going to be easy, and I know I am but one small blip on the world radar, but I am all in.
In the words of Elie Wiesel (whom I had the privilege of bringing to Dallas for a speaking engagement in the late 80’s), “One person of integrity can make a difference.”
When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy…Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must—at that moment—become the center of the universe.
Systemic Racism: An Excerpt from ADL
Racism is defined as: “the marginalization and/or oppression of people of color based on a socially constructed racial hierarchy that privileges white people.” Racism shows up in all aspects of our lives and society: in interpersonal communication, through discriminatory policies and practices, in biased language, and in our laws and institutions (e.g., education, media, employment, government and the criminal justice system).
Many see George Floyd’s death as an example of systemic racism, referring to the way race disadvantages people of color in the criminal justice system. African American and Latinx men are disproportionately represented in all levels of the criminal justice system, from arrest to sentencing to death row. Moreover, research shows that African American people are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than white people.
How Hate and Bias Escalate
On the same day that George Floyd was killed, another incident occurred in Central Park in New York City. Christian Cooper, an African American man, was birdwatching when he encountered an unleashed dog. He asked the dog’s owner, Amy Cooper (no relation), a white woman, to put the dog on a leash as the park rules require. When she did not, he began to film her. In response, Amy Cooper said she would call the police, stating, “I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life” while pulling out her cellphone and calling 911.
While these two events appear to be unrelated, they both demonstrate a very important concept: when left unchecked, hate and bias can escalate and lead to dire outcomes.
The Pyramid of Hate illustrates how the levels of biased attitudes and behaviors grow in complexity from the bottom to top. Like a pyramid, the upper levels are supported by the lower levels, and it becomes increasingly difficult to challenge and dismantle as behaviors escalate. Bias at each level negatively impacts individuals, institutions, and society. When bias goes unchecked, it becomes “normalized” and contributes to a pattern of accepting discrimination, hate, and injustice in society.
Amy Cooper’s anger and bias led her to threaten Christian Cooper with the bias she assumed the police would have when she described the man who was threatening her as African American. This is a situation that could have easily escalated if the police arrived on the scene and engaged in a confrontation, or worse, with Christian Cooper. All too quickly and pervasively, the escalation of bias and hate has led to violence and the deaths of George Floyd and many others.
Mission of NAACP
The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons.
- To ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of all citizens
- To achieve equality of rights and eliminate race prejudice among the citizens of the United States
- To remove all barriers of racial discrimination through democratic processes
- To seek enactment and enforcement of federal, state, and local laws securing civil rights
- To inform the public of the adverse effects of racial discrimination and to seek its elimination
- To educate persons as to their constitutional rights and to take all lawful action to secure the exercise thereof, and to take any other lawful action in furtherance of these objectives, consistent with the NAACP’s Articles of Incorporation and this Constitution.