Today is the National Day of Racial Healing, reminding us all to make space to engage in reflection and conversation on racial healing, equity, and justice. To do so requires us to acknowledge the unjust systems that are evident in the policy structures that govern us, in the cultural norms that we perpetuate, and in the economic practices that dominate our society. These systems must be named, confronted, and overcome if we are ever to dismantle structural racism in America.
The consequence of not taking action now is the deepening of the cultural and economic divides, which ultimately pit neighbor against neighbor. The recent attack on the U.S. Capitol provided the world with a frightening look at what happens when, as Thomas Edsall noted in the New York Times, “racism, grievance, resentment, and the fear of diminished status [come] together to fuel violence and mayhem.” On January 6, rioters willfully chose to wreak chaos, destruction, and violence upon the Capitol and anyone who stood in their way–including the local residents, families, and staff working in the vicinity. The armed rioters made it clear in their interviews and social media posts that their actions were driven by a desire to attack our democracy and protect a culture of white supremacy.
If ever there was a time we needed to heal as a nation, it’s now. And yet, the calls from politicians for “unity” ring hollow to me. From my perspective, healing requires accountability and justice—not only from the people who participated in the riots, but also from the politicians who intentionally spread lies to undermine the results of the presidential election, and from the systems and power structures that were born out of racism and have grown insidiously over the course of centuries to become our norm. The insurrection did not happen by accident. The reality is that America is long overdue for a reckoning with its history of racism and inequality.
Today’s focus on racial healing is a challenge for us all to find ways to work together — not to rebuild what is broken, but rather to build anew the systems and structures that promote healing, equity, and justice.
Tomorrow the country will begin a new chapter with the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Together, they have promised to keep the American people safe and secure, to renew global alliances, to prepare for challenges such as cyber threats and climate change, and to contain the pandemic. This to me is our country’s chance to put into practice the tools and teachings that promote truth, racial healing, and transformation and work toward a more equitable society.
In looking ahead, we all have a role to play in transforming our country’s narrative. For The BUILD Health Challenge® and its partners, we are continuing our efforts across the country to advance health equity in communities so that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be healthy. It is because of this focus that we will not only be watching the inauguration tomorrow, but also reflecting on a very different milestone. The day will also mark the one-year anniversary of the first COVID-19 case diagnosed in the United States — a grim reminder that our communities, and in particular Black, Indigenous, and people of color, have been ravished by the pandemic. Despite efforts to eradicate this faceless enemy, we find ourselves here, reeling from the loss of nearly 400,000 of our family, friends, and neighbors in the U.S. who have succumbed to COVID-19.
And so, as we observe this day of racial healing, let’s make sure to continue the fight for racial justice and equity every day. We cannot stop until new systems and new norms centered in equity are realized. The future of our country depends on it.