Even as our community and our country are working to safely emerge from the prolonged impact of the COVID-19 pandemic threat, another major issue has risen to the top of the local, state, and national public agenda – and it must be directly addressed by all of us.
A long-term pattern of disparate treatment of Black people by some police officers was tragically reflected anew in the horrible death last week of George Floyd in Minneapolis. We know that the vast majority of police officers are dedicated, courageous, and here to serve us all equally. But the shocking video of police officers apparently and blatantly abusing their power with excessive force that cost Mr. Floyd his life has been the viral story properly dominating an important public dialogue in every community of America. It has created a pivotal moment in time for all of us that summons our collective need to collaborate and cooperate as never before.
The harsh, chronic reality of the absence of equal justice under the law, demonstrated by such regularly documented grievous incidents, cries out for a local, state, and national commitment to make overdue changes in policies, procedures, and protocols in law enforcement agencies – to adopt best practices that treat all fairly and equally. But it also strongly argues for an honest assessment of other fundamental shortcomings in any societal institution that fails to treat all people with equal respect, dignity, and opportunity.
Peaceful demonstrations in our community and dozens of communities across the country are clear evidence that Americans want to confront the reality of institutional racism within law enforcement and other major spheres of our American society. The landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination based on race, religion, gender, or national origin – but a law itself doesn’t eradicate racism, prejudice, and discrimination. That job takes more ongoing work than the historic passage of a piece of legislation. Extreme groups on either end of the political spectrum must not be allowed to hijack peaceful progress toward the important end result of an America that is truly equal and inclusive.
The Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce embraces its mission to be a catalyst for business and community growth – and a trusted convener for productive dialogue about the major challenges in front of our community. We surely will dedicate ourselves to working with all stakeholders to promote the appropriate remedies and reforms to festering systemic problems that make prejudice, discrimination, and racism an ugly daily truth for so many of our neighbors, friends, and co-workers.
The Chamber is a consistent voice for business and a stronger economy – but we are also deeply invested in trying to improve the quality of life for all who live, work, learn, and visit here.
This moment in time in Tallahassee, Florida, and America represents a unique tipping point opportunity. We are called upon now to summon the better angels in all of us as part of a genuine commitment to ferret out institutional racism everywhere it exists – and to move our community, state, and country to the higher ground that truly creates a lasting foundation of equality for all.
We are proud to live in a diverse community that celebrates the many differences in cultures, beliefs, and traditions of our citizens. We also recognize that we all have important work to do, together. For us to realize our best possible future, it is the business of all of us to ensure that every citizen feels safe, appreciated, equal, and empowered to build a fulfilling life. That’s a vital part of the ongoing mission we intend to continue serving for this wonderful community.