George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and so many other African Americans should still be alive, and if they had been white, they almost certainly would be. We know that individuals and communities of color are policed differently, and that the criminal justice system treats people differently based on their race—the disparities are documented and undeniable.
It takes conscious, deliberate work to fix these problems and to tear down the systems that created and perpetuate them. That is where our focus must be.
We must make it clear that black lives matter in Virginia, and must make a long-term commitment to invest in laws, policies, and training that will keep all Virginians safe.
We must also protect the right of our fellow Americans to safely protest and demonstrate. There’s no excuse for tear-gassing peaceful demonstrators, whether it happens in Washington D.C. or Richmond, or for law enforcement agencies to treat our fellow citizens like an enemy force to be suppressed.
Demands for reform and accountability in policing are valid, urgent and just. They must be heard and we must act.
If we are to be what we aspire to be as a Commonwealth and as a people then we all have an obligation to step up, to stand with those who have been hurt and who continue to be hurt, and to demand change.
In my conversations over the last few days, I’ve heard over and over again words like “tired” and “exhausted.” The weight of fear that our society places on the shoulders of African Americans is immoral and unsustainable. No one can be truly free if they live in constant fear that they, their children, or their loved ones could be killed if they go out for a walk, or run an errand, or if a traffic stop takes a bad turn.
I can never personally know the weight of that fear, but I recognize it, and I will do anything in my power to ease that burden and that fear.Standing in solidarity.