A week ago, the country witnessed the horrific murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis law enforcement. This unjustified act has ignited civil unrest in America on a scale not seen since the Civil Rights Era. Already gripped by a global pandemic, we find our nation at a tipping point where we either unite to enact real change or divide ourselves further.
During the height of the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Martin Luther King said, "We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."
While we understand that the arc is still bending, for many of us the time for patience has run out. The horrifying murder of George Floyd was the tsunami in an ocean of injustice whose tidal wave is sweeping our nation. It is time to bend that arc to achieve justice for all Americans, including our brothers and sisters in the African American community. We are witnessing expressions of grief and rage in communities across our country. These communities will no longer stand by silently while they witness intolerance and the unequal application of the law.
There is no doubt that racism, bigotry, and police brutality still exist in America. As a country, we cannot hope to erase deep-seated discrimination, intolerance, and inequality without direct action.
As an organization, CSEA seeks peace for those communities that have experienced brutality, violence, and destruction for much of our nation's history. The labor and civil rights movements are indelibly intertwined through our shared history of protest when normal avenues of addressing grievances fail. We support those who seek to exercise their First Amendment right to assemble and express their views through peaceful protest. CSEA opposes any act of violence, whether by law enforcement or by citizens. The path to peace is not through more violence, and it is not through more destruction.
CSEA understands that members and staff alike are processing their feelings concerning recent events. During this time, we must look to leaders who are meeting this moment with real leadership; leaders who acknowledge our anger and seek to bring us together, not those who aim to divide us further.
We find strength in the police chiefs and officers who courageously stand with protesters to recognize and listen to their concerns. We applaud leaders like Governor Newsom, who calmly steers our state through these historically challenging times, and Vice President Biden, who kneels with us in solidarity. We find strength in being an organization that embraces diversity and inclusion.
Now, as in the 1960s, we must follow Dr. King's insistence that nonviolent protest is the most effective protest. CSEA encourages you to stand up, speak out, and be heard - but do it safely. If you choose to join your community in a demonstration, please promote Dr. King's nonviolent ideals, discourage destruction of property, and use the power of words to defeat the scourge of hate. Use your individual and collective strength to protest effectively and peacefully, and, in so doing, send a clear message to leaders across California and the nation.
There is strength in numbers; it's our 250,000 members who use their strength to improve their working conditions and their lives. We understand it is essential to channel our anger, frustration, and pain as we seek understanding on how such a tragic event could occur. Use this moment to channel these emotions and feelings into action leading to actual change. The most effective way to do that is to engage in electing leaders who pledge to enact meaningful reform in law enforcement practices and our justice system.
Let us stand united in this effort.
Ben Valdepeña Association President
Keith Pace Executive Director