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Prof. Maria Madison (Heller)

Over numerous years the Equal Justice Institute, founded by Bryan Stevenson who is our Commencement Speaker this year, has been publishing their annual calendar. On each day of the year, the EJI documents human rights violations from over the centuries, and as current as now.  

If you want to understand the deepest problem in America, begin with the EJI calendar, a simple, legal, scholarly-researched and accessible daily reflection. Next, breathe and appreciate how a population pushed back and pushes back against hatred ingeniously and at the risk of our own lives. Finally, ACT. The story isn’t just George Floyd. The story is everyday, you and I must speak with courage and conviction to everyone we know that we are all born of the same cloth.

What Now: Fight bias with brilliant ideas from so many sources including Their examples include: 1. Support the Federal Justice in Policing Act. 2. Strategize and Contribute to Progressive Policies and Procedures. 3. Advocate for Law Enforcement Agencies to Protect and Uphold the Constitutional Right to Peaceful Protest; Contact your mayor, Guiding Principles for Crowd Management. 4. Follow and Support Campaigns for Advancing Policing Reform. Support Other Organizations Doing Racial Equity Work. 5. Support Other Organizations Doing Racial Equity Work, such as National Black Environmental Justice Network and Civil Rights Under Law. 6. Support Local Black-owned Businesses such as Black Nation, Official Black Wall Street, WeBuyBlack.

Maria Madison is a lecturer, Associate Dean of Equity, Inclusion and Diversity, and Director of the Institute for Economic and Racial Equity at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management.

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Prof. Karen Donelan (Heller)

As George Floyd lay dying on May 25, 2020, thousands of others in the U.S. lay prone in hospitals, also trying to breathe. Many were also people of color, dying while their families watched in horror on video screens. While one first responder committed murder, others risked their lives to resuscitate the dying.

Why did it take a video to spark mass protest? Empirical data and widespread reports of racial discrimination against Black men and women in policing are on record. Is this single case enough to move views of policing among those of us who (jay)walk, shop(lift) and drive(dangerously) while white? 

Policy change has now been triggered — as in criminal justice, racial disparities in infant mortality, life expectancy and access to care are being re-examined in health systems. We can blame unhealthy environments, but must also face the system’s everyday failures in fostering overt racism, trauma and disrespect.

During the trial, I found myself focused on witnesses who held the cameras, broke rank and testified. Can we move beyond gathering evidence and dare to bear witness? Can we risk flipping the camera to selfie mode and see our very own breath fogging the lens? 

Karen Donelan is a Stuart H. Altman Chair in U.S. Health Policy at the Heller School.