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05.29.2020

Our Outrage Must Drive Us to Seek Justice and Equality

Our systems failed to protect people of color from COVID-19, just as they failed George Floyd and countless others before him. That must change.

By Rabih Torbay

Like many of you, I have watched the news from Minnesota with great sadness. Sadness over the violent, unnecessary death of George Floyd, but also over the long-standing inequalities his death has brought to light yet again, and over the great pain and anger on display in Minneapolis.

What we are witnessing in this country right now would have been incomprehensible to me when I first came to the U.S. It is unfathomable that in the United States, the most powerful country in the world, that we would lose 100,000 people to a virus. That we would be so woefully unprepared.

It is especially appalling, however, that deaths like George Floyd’s continue to happen, that the inequities underpinning them continue to persist. Mr. Floyd’s death deeply saddens and angers me as a human, as an American, but also as a father of multiracial children. This story is personal for me — it could have been my son Brandon gasping for air that day, or my son Dylan calling out for his mother. It is hard to have answers when they tell me they are afraid to drive, to reach for their phone, or even to go for a jog.

That, as we are seeing, is the greater sadness beneath George Floyd’s death — that we have still not reckoned as a country with our own inequalities. George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray: the names change, but the legacy is the same. COVID-19 has exposed these inequalities as well, with communities of color bearing a larger burden of the disease. Our systems failed them, as they failed George Floyd and so many others.

As humanitarians, our work is driven by a hunger for justice — a desire to right these failures and use our anger and sadness as a force for good. As we are seeing in Minneapolis, the whole world hungers for justice. For equality. No one — not in Minneapolis, Freetown, Caracas, Sana’a, Aleppo, or Cox’s Bazar — deserves to be treated any less than anyone else.

The world needs people like you and me to stand for justice and equity more than ever — work born from the same impulse that drove Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from inside a Birmingham jail in 1963: because injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Rabih Torbay is the President and CEO of Project HOPE. This message is adapted from a communication sent to Project HOPE team members on May 29, 2020.

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