Social Justice During a Pandemic

Mark Johnson | August 4, 2020

A telling sentence begins an article from early June describing the dynamic interplay between social unrest and systemic change.  It proclaims how "America was jolted out of its pandemic stupor," by the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd and the impact these killings have caused throughout our nation and around the world.

We could guess how this pandemic was going to change this summer into something different from anything we had ever experienced.  But most of us were surprised to learn how we would need to face up to other viruses plaguing our land, diseases that have been with us a very long time, mocking any stalled progress, and making claim to its persistent influence and dangerous triumphs.

Their numbers are legion. Cruelty and greed now fueled by unrestrained power politics that seeks no compromise nor feels any compunction to help those who are powerless and suffering from extraordinary needs.  The stubborn resistance and blind neglect to address our country's history of over 400 years of oppression through personal and systematic bias against persons of color. The disappearance of the middle class as we witness the gap grows ever wider between the haves and have-nots.  An entrenched polarization where every issue, even those concerning our personal health and safety, and the scientific data needed to protect and improve it, becomes politicized.

It's all overwhelming and can be disabling. Or it can spur us to action.  At least, that's a bit of what is happening in our city and I'm thankful to be a part of it.

In early June, a group calling itself "Black Faith Leaders of Lexington and Vicinity" (BFLLV) formed.  In previous blogs, you've read some of their concerns and demands.  I have been working specifically with the sub-group on law enforcement reform.  The picture above is from our meeting with Chief Weathers last Friday morning.  We wore masks and social distanced.  And the work of justice moved an inch forward.

Mayor Linda Gorton, in her response to BFLLV, has formed workgroups under the “Mayor’s Commission on Racial Justice and Equality.” They have been busy meeting on Zoom and discussing issues of economics and education, law enforcement and justice, housing and gentrification, and health disparities. Our own Rachel Childress is serving on the Housing and Gentrification sub-committee.  You can listen to these discussions and watch the work of these subgroups on YouTube.

I would also point you to a presentation by Dr. Gary Potter from Eastern Kentucky University in his presentation (here) to the subcommittee on “Law Enforcement, Justice and Accountability.”  He begins at the 3:39 mark and provides an excellent overview of data and issues that address the disproportionate events of suspicion, detention, and arrest for people of black and brown skin as compared to their white counterparts.  He also offers advice and concrete suggestions on how we can improve the ways Lexington can address and help address such inequity and abuses.

TOWN HALL MEETINGS - Finally, I encourage you to watch (and attend by Zoom), the town hall meetings where these subcommittees have and will be reporting their findings to the community.  In fact, one of them happens tonight (August 4) beginning at 6:30 pm.  If you wish, you can submit questions or comments by emailing:  <TownHall@lexingtonky.gov>. But don't worry if tonight is inconvenient or you have read this invite too late.  You can still watch it later and get all caught up (here).

As we face and try to cope with the still-emerging impact of this pandemic, I find at least one positive.  We have access like never before to these efforts and necessities to hear about these discussions now posted on Zoom and YouTube outlets.  They allow the average citizen to be more educated and better able to play the part of an informed important component of the greater whole.  Just by listening in, you too can practice a vital form of social justice.

Thomas Jefferson is famously quoted, “a well-informed electorate is a prerequisite to democracy.”  Watching and being a part of these discussions are testimonies to our living democracy and the responsibility all of us bear as a part of it.  I encourage you to find the time, to listen, learn, and grow as a more informed and knowledgeable member of our Lexington community.

3 months

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