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From King to Floyd to the US Election: Consensus for Change

Can we rebuild American democracy? Reasons for optimism in a divided country.

The racial protests up through June 2020 that prompted this post's original draft were inspired by the senseless killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Aubrey, and Breonna Taylor, and are reflective of the 2014 Ferguson unrest, as well as the 1992 Los Angeles riots following the brutal assault of Rodney King. We hoped past cries for justice would have led to substantive change, but they have not. The situation worsened with revelations that the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affects Black communities, compounded by the trauma of oppression.

What we fail to comprehend is the powerful influence of racism, and how some with the most rigid values have become callous and indifferent to the needs of others they deem inferior. The flip-side of the privileged American Dream is a nightmare for Black people who are denied equality, equal pay, equitable quality education, civic resources, and basic human dignity. Millions of Black people are warehoused in prisons or confined to under-resourced, under-served neighborhoods.

A significant revolution in human history has surfaced; we cannot even agree on elected officials to speak, advocate, and decide for all people equally and equitably. The gaps in education and wealth continue to widen; a generation not only fights for health equity but our long-term survival.

We are a young country, raised to believe in democracy and the exceptionalism of American liberty, ingenuity, and idealism. Some felt healed when 1960s esteemed civil rights advocates were agents of change, challenging inequality and racism. Civil rights on paper paved the way for women’s rights; accessible resources; religious freedoms no matter how extremist; and basic utility requirements like electricity, postal service, and phone service, not just rights for Black people as originally perceived. Exemplifying unequivocally that we can do better as a nation.

Despite 2020's disasters, there is reason for optimism. All races, genders, and generations were represented in the ongoing protest marches, and the consensus for change, coupled with the pandemic and climate change, showed us we can establish an equitable democracy. With the invention and use of smartphone cameras and the Internet, both instrumental in uncovering police brutality and political contradictions, new ways of approaching inequalities can finally be the triumph over COVID-19, systemic -isms, and economic injustices.

Educational systems developed in the 1800s can be fundamentally altered with technological innovations that provide student-centered and customized virtual instruction, including the potential for more equitable, accessible education and independent, critical thinking. It is clearer now, post-election, how this bottom-up movement will be realized. We have, at our disposal, a knowledge oasis more powerful and more humane than past lunar discoveries, blind self-interest, and atomic weaponry.

Our founding roots in democracy were flawed, and we must end current inequalities and nonsensical thinking if we are to protect our democracy from future viral and social epidemics. We must believe in our future, our ability to think critically and independently, and commit to meaningfully coexist with each other.