July 18, 2016
The following text appears in a full page ad in Monday’s New York Times:
It is during times of horrific tragedy that we are tested as a nation.
The deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile at the hands of those sworn to protect are the latest shocking examples of a justice system that is broken. A system in which the lives of too many African Americans are needlessly cut down, families are destroyed, and communities are torn apart.
The deaths of five brave Dallas police officers – Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson, and Patrick Zamarripa – who were simply protecting the rights of those speaking out against the deaths of Mr. Sterling and Mr. Castile, prove that hate will poison the soul and lead to evil acts.
For all the families that must now endure the indescribable loss of their loved ones, and for the communities that bear the scars of anger and division, these deaths must never be forgotten.
It is why we must confront the difficult truths that our policing system and our justice system are not color blind.
That the scourge of racism has not disappeared.
That inequality, joblessness, crime, and poverty affect not just tens of millions of Americans, but disproportionately victimize minorities.
That countless African Americans and other people of color are the victims to those few bad police officers that do not see a father, a mother, a brother, a sister, a son, or a daughter, but merely a statistic.
It is also why we must embrace, as a nation, that the lives of black Americans do matter. Those of us who are not black should not take offense to these words, but honestly ask ourselves: What would we say if we witnessed, time and time again, the lives of our neighbors, friends, and loved ones stolen by those sworn to protect?
And while we must open our eyes and ears to the prejudice that exists, we cannot allow ourselves to believe that every police officer is prejudiced – for we know that is not true.
To bridge this divide, and to build the trust we need between all groups, we must talk openly about these issues, and our entire nation must listen.
In the spirit of the recent White House meetings and townhall that President Obama held to discuss these difficult issues, and the profound decision to simulcast this townhall on ESPN and ABC, we believe an incredible opportunity exists to build on this effort and hold a national summit on justice.
As a diverse union family with over 1.3 million members, such a national summit would give our members and all Americans the chance to hear directly from our national and state elected leaders, civil rights officials, Black Lives Matter movement leaders, local and state police officials, as well as representatives from labor, media, and corporate America.
It would provide opportunity to listen to difficult truths, to hear the sincerity of fears and concerns so many feel, and to understand the changes that we must make.
To help focus our nation’s awareness, we believe that all our nation’s major cable and broadcast channels should all agree to televise this national summit in prime time. By simulcasting this summit across all major networks, the call for change would echo across this nation like never before.
While no one event will stop every incidence of hate or injustice, we believe that by coming together, in such a public and historic fashion, we can send a powerful message to the American people that we stand united against all forms of hate and violence.
Most importantly, we can begin to learn from each other that how we act, what we voice in public, and how we judge each other, does truly matter.
While some may question the timing or the need for such a dramatic national event, we must realize this: If we do not begin to openly confront these issues, publicly and privately, we will forsake the future of this great nation.
As a nation, we are better than this, so let us now prove it.