The events of the past week have struck a nerve all too familiar to us: that the color of one’s skin, religion and ethnicity threatens the right to justice, equality, and fair treatment. What has simmered below the surface found its fissure in the horrendous death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police. The ensuing outrage that followed throughout the nation revealed the gaping and widening inequality experienced by so many Americans. It is not new, and neither is the response by people feeling powerless or those taking advantage of distress by looting and damaging property. It is the response to deep-seated problems at the core of our country’s identity, ignored and suppressed for many years.
This is everyone’s problem whether we stand in solidarity with protestors, with law enforcement or with both. We can all recognize a broken system that needs our immediate and sustained attention, as well as the courage of governance and leadership to quit ignoring the racism at our core. Many of us feel helpless to be the force of change in the world we want to see. Notwithstanding, it starts with each one of us where we stand today.
The senior living industry, and perhaps Horizon House in particular, is racially, religiously and ethnically diverse. We have staff members and residents from 29 different countries at Horizon House. This does not mean we are without prejudice. We all come to the table with our biases and the lens from which we view the world. Often times, that lens has not sufficiently considered the imbalance of power that is afforded the majority over the minority.
We see more clearly now than ever that we must look within, challenge ourselves to be more aware and to support long-awaited change. It is time to break the terms of an unwritten racial contract that has deemed certain lives are of greater value than others. Some of us have not walked in the shoes of the oppressed and we have little true understanding what it means and feels like to be subject to racism, inequality or injustice. Perhaps understanding starts by admitting we don’t fully understand and consciously deciding to open to more and better understanding.
We have to ask ourselves how we can listen, say, think and act differently that will convey a message of true understanding and appreciation of all of our differences, similarities and struggles.
We are not helpless, and we can be a better voice for justice, equality and fairness.