The message that people across the country have been sending since the death of George Floyd is clear: real progress and lasting change is vital now, more than ever, especially for Black communities.
That message has come in many forms. It started with massive demonstrations. Then, social media platforms saw a simple, yet effective show of solidarity in the form of a black square. Washington, D.C. even started a worldwide trend by painting the words "Black Lives Matter" on a stretch of city street leading to the White House. That street was also ceremoniously renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza.
The list of efforts to acknowledge deep-seated issues that pertain to race in this country keeps growing. The efforts aren't in vain. They're needed to build momentum that drives change, but they aren't the change itself.
Yes, we can paint murals and rename streets. States and companies can recognize the importance of Juneteenth with a paid holiday. We can create new band-aids with different skin tones and rebrand Aunt Jemima. Owners can opt to rename NFL teams and the league itself can apologize to its players for condemning police brutality protests.
But all this is is acknowledgment, not action. And like those newly-introduced Band-Aids, they are temporary bandages that look good. What we really need is action from all branches of government: executive, judicial, and legislative.
A newly-renamed street doesn't really help if another Black man is killed while jogging in a neighborhood and it takes two months to make arrests.
A new sports team name doesn't do much if another Black woman is fatally shot after police can barge into her apartment.
And a new pancake syrup brand can't save the life of a Black man who says he can’t breathe while an officer callously kneels on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
I do believe these gestures can set an example for how we draw attention to racial injustice, but they pale in comparison to what truly needs to be done. What I want goes beyond these things.
I want new laws and court decisions. I want ratified amendments and state code reviews. I want fair judges and prosecutors. I want reforms and renewals. I want systems dismantled and rebuilt. What happened to Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and so many others shouldn't happen to anyone.
The inequalities don't just exist within the criminal justice system but in education, health care, and housing. They don't just disproportionately affect Black people, but other communities of color. We don't just need a promise of change without the parity and prosperity that goes with it.
Now I’m not here to put a negative spotlight on Nike, the NFL, and, least of all, the Band-Aid brand.
I’m looking at city councils and boards of supervisors. I’m looking at lawmakers and attorneys general. Governors and vice governors. Republicans and Democrats. Lower courts and higher courts. The Supreme Court. I’m looking at the president of these United States.
Thoughtful gestures alone can’t move the needle forward. A signature on a bill and a court ruling that matters can.
As James Baldwin once said, “It’s taken my father’s time, my mother’s time, my uncle’s time, my brother’s and my sister’s time. My niece’s and my nephew’s time. How much time do you want for your progress?”