You are here

A Collective Sigh of Relief and the Moral Obligation to Ensure Change

A Collective Sigh of Relief and the Moral Obligation to Ensure Change

This week the nation seemed to breathe a sigh of relief when on Tuesday a Minnesota jury delivered the verdict declaring Derek Chauvin guilty on all counts in the death of George Floyd.  After a year of unrest and a number of other deaths suffered in the Black community, this verdict is a glimmer of hope for reform and needed change within our systems. At PEAK, we work for inclusion, equity, and social justice, not just for those with disabilities, but for ALL marginalized people.

There is no room to dispute the inequities that haunt Black people and the systemic racism that pervades our nation.  Systems change and reform is needed at all levels of society from law enforcement agencies and justice systems which disproportionately target people of color, to systems that create communities where people of color lack access to employment, education, and health and medical programs and ultimately deny opportunities for a good life.

It is important to note that the same type of prone restraint that killed George Floyd is used in many of our nation’s schools and has resulted in the death of students. In the education community there is a movement to outright ban seclusion and restraint in schools. Black students are restrained at a disproportionately higher rate than their white counterparts. An article from The Guardian was recently shared on Alliance Against Restraint and Seclusion’s Facebook page and shows the consequences of the use of restraint by educators in Minnesota, but this is an issue that must be addressed throughout the nation.

At PEAK we recognize the intersections of race, disability, gender and more and how each category of marginalization an individual finds themselves in results in increased risk factors for poor outcomes. Many of the individuals who experience police violence are not only people of color, but also experience a disability. An article from 2016 highlights that “at least 25 percent of people shot by police have a mental illness or disability.” A study from the same year from the Ruderman Foundation reports that “half of all… high profile police killings are people with disabilities.”

PEAK also teaches that behaviors are a form of communication and asks that parents and educators look at why a behavior occurs and seek to understand what the behavior communicates. What do we need to understand about behavior regarding ourselves individually, about those whose experiences are different than our own, and collectively as a nation?  What were the circumstances that drew Floyd to his path? Why did Chauvin react to Floyd the way he did? Why does this culture of racism continue to exist in our communities? How do we move forward and reconcile with 300 years of racism embedded so deeply in all of our institutions? These are questions that we must address in order to bring about the change we wish to see and treat the underlying issues that plague our world.

PEAK’s Executive Director, Michele Williers shared with staff this week 3 points that she recently read from Americorps which speak to the responsibility shared by all of us:

1.   Always seek to understand and acknowledge the lived experience and feelings of others;

2.   Create spaces for you and others to say, “I am not okay...here’s the reason why”, therefore normalizing empathy in our culture; and

3.   Hold onto whatever light you can, believing that even in the darkest of moments, it is the light of kindness, service, empathy, and love that will heal us in the worst of times.

Each of us has a moral obligation to help ensure that ALL people in our classrooms, schools, communities, places of employment, and all areas of life are able to thrive and fully contribute.  These are the values that we uphold at PEAK. A quote from the Black Lives Matter Facebook page was shared this past summer in a SPEAKout blog on the 30th Anniversary of the ADA, “Each of our own liberation is tied to one another. We cannot be fully free until every member of our community is free. That is why we must be intentional and steadfast in centering the voices of the most marginalized members of our community as we imagine a better world.” All means ALL!

PEAK is by your side for your entire parenting journey. Support our work with a one-time or monthly donation. It’s a great way to invest in our community and ensure hope, access, and inclusion for all!