Peace is not the product of terror or fear. Peace is not the silence of cemeteries. Peace is not the silent result of violent repression. Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all. Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity. It is right and it is duty.” – Monseñor Oscar Romero
As Union members we always chant, “no justice, no peace.” This is a powerful phrase that, to me, captures this moment. Rage, sadness, love for my sisters and brothers all flowed through my being as I read about the latest senseless murders of unarmed people for no other reason than they are Black.
George Floyd was suffocated in public by the police in Minnesota as he cried out for his mother. This is not justice. This is not peace. Ahmaud Arbery was murdered by racist individuals as he was jogging in Atlanta. This is not justice. This is not peace. Breonna Taylor was killed by the police in her own home in Kentucky. This is not justice. This is not peace.
When there is wrongdoing, we expect justice. Yet, it took massive, ongoing protests to push the justice system to arrest the officer that killed George Floyd. And it was only after public pressure put a national spotlight on his case that the murderers of Ahmaud Arbery were arrested. As of today, no arrest has been made in Breonna Taylor’s case. This has become a familiar pattern for our justice system.
This cannot be just another moment in which we grieve, protest, make bold statements and go back to a normal that we know is the cause for all this injustice. Black people suffer violence every day in the United States – structural violence, economic violence, and disproportionate physical violence. The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the inequities of our society. Amongst all of us, our Black sisters and brothers are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. They are getting sick and dying at a higher rate; a majority have to continue to work in unsafe conditions to survive; their children are disproportionately falling behind in their academic progress due to lack of access to the internet and computers. This is not justice. This is not peace.
I am a Salvadorian immigrant. I know firsthand the plight of immigrants and people of color and the violence we face every day. I am still so agitated over children dying in cages. But just like our Black sisters and brothers have joined in solidarity to fight back against aggressive immigration policies, at this moment all of us need to raise our voices in unison and conviction to say that Black Lives Matter.
“No justice, no peace” can no longer be just a chant. It must be a conviction. We cannot change an unjust system by just making a demand. We must be ready to make that demand real by fighting for change at every level.
We have seen people take unprecedented militant action all over the country. We have also seen police repression and violence. This feels like change could be in the air, but change will only come if we seize this moment and use it to transform the racist structures of our society to more equitable, just structures that value Black life.
We must demand real change from our elected officials. We must organize to push all government to fund public services, to fund education, to ensure healthcare for all, to create a progressive fiscal system so that all people have the income they need to raise their families in dignity and in peace regardless of what they look like, where they come from or where they live. It is within our power to fundamentally transform how our society polices, how it applies justice and how it defines justice. Right now, that power is in the hands of the president, our governor, mayors, legislators, etc. We need to make it clear to them that this is the time to act with courage and conviction – or we will organize, vote and elect someone who will.
We cannot afford to stop our eternal struggle for justice and peace.