Reflections On Our City

In the past week, America yet again has been forced to confront the pernicious racial injustice that is our nation's ugly original sin.  Like all Americans, I was outraged by the horrific image of a so-called law enforcement officer in Minnesota callously and cruelly murdering George Floyd.  That officer's knee pressing down on the neck of an African-American man, face down on the street, handcuffed and unarmed, helpless and begging for his life, was the very symbol of the kind of abuse of power and injustice and oppression that too many have suffered for far too long.  

Anyone with a shred of human decency had to be outraged by that murder.  Anyone who believes in our country's professed values must demand justice for it.  In this case, justice includes prosecuting that officer, and also those who just watched when they could have intervened and did nothing to protect the victim of this crime.

But justice has to extend beyond holding the perpetrators of this crime accountable.  Justice also means devoting ourselves fully to building a different kind of society in this country, in which all Americans enjoy equal protection under the law.  Justice means doing the hard work of dismantling the racial disparities that infect not only the criminal justice system, but also health care, education, housing and economic systems that institutionalize poverty across generations.  And justice means changing our own hearts and minds so that we stop seeing our fellow Americans who are different from us in appearance or in beliefs as threats or as enemies.

We should all seize this opportunity to stand up -- together - to create that kind of change in this country.  And at the same time, we must stand together in firm opposition to those who would misuse this moment of grief and activism to foment violence and unrest and insecurity.  Justice also requires that we hold accountable anyone who attacks a police officer, injures an innocent person or loots or burns our community.

This has been a week filled with great anger and great despair.  But I know there is always an opportunity to find hope and inspiration as well, if we just look for it.  Today I saw a Black family bravely defending their business as it was being attacked by looters, and then helping LAPD officers arrest the criminals.  I saw a lone white LAPD officer taking a knee in a crowd of protesters to show his respect for their voice and support for our collective cause, and as he knelt, a young Black man approached him from the crowd -- to shake his hand.  And in scenes like those, and hundreds like them throughout the city, we can all see the best in the Los Angeles we love, even as we strive to make it better.