A road map for eliminating racism

Diversity in leadership is important

WE MUST seize this moment.

For over 400 years, the racism pandemic has infiltrated and spread its ugly wings throughout our country. From slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation to modern day racial profiling and police brutality, racism has entrenched its insidious venom deep into the soul of our country. The knee of one racist police officer might have killed George Floyd, but the knee of systematic racism has been on the throat of our black brothers and sisters for 400 years, slowly suffocating communities of color.

During the past week, I have attended over a dozen powerful, personal, and peaceful vigils from Boston to Attleboro and from Fall River to Brookline. I have heard and felt the pain and anguish of 400 years of oppression in the voices of my black and brown neighbors. I have also seen a growing and diverse community like myself speaking-up and kneeling, standing, marching and protesting with our black and brown neighbors, listening to them, and supporting them as one community.

Once these vigils, protests, marches, and rallies conclude, we must continue to stand and fight as one community. We must peel back the layers of systemic racism that have built-up during the last 400 years.

It must begin with denouncing and eliminating police brutality, racial profiling, and excessive force by our police and eliminating qualified police immunity by improving oversight and independent investigations to hold individual law enforcement officers and police departments accountable. It must include establishing new federal policies and guidelines on the standard for use of force and the demilitarization of our police department, and passing and prosecuting tougher hate crimes legislation, including making lynching a federal crime. It also must include fixing the systematic racism that is in our healthcare, housing, education, transportation, judicial, food, environmental, and criminal justice systems.

But that will not be enough, unless we conquer what I believe are three of the underlying causes of racism.

No one is born a racist. No one is born to hate. This behavior is taught. Education is the antidote to eradicating racism. We must double down on our investment to teach our youth at the earliest of ages that lies, prejudice, and stereotypes can turn into hatred and racism and even worse, death. We must also truly commit ourselves to better educating and training our police, first responders, teachers, and political and civic leaders on cultural competency, diversity, equity and inclusion, and explicit and implicit bias.

While we better educate our youth and better train our first responders and civic and political leaders, we must also ensure more diversity and inclusion in our political, business, and civic leadership.

We need leaders who are diverse themselves to accurately reflect our city, state, and country’s population and who understand the diverse perspectives of their communities. We need leaders who are committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion for all and being a role model and leader for ALL our children so they know they are safe, loved, and wanted. We not only need such diverse political leaders, but we also need a representative number of diverse teachers in our classrooms, diverse judges in our courtrooms, and diverse leaders in the boardrooms and executive suites of our Fortune 500 companies, private companies, nonprofits, high schools and colleges, hospitals, and police and fire departments.

We must also support and protect the voting rights of all Americans, especially those of historically disenfranchised populations, like the black and Latino communities. Because when more Americans are encouraged to vote and are able to vote, they are more likely to vote for those candidates who will best present their communities and interests.

Meet the Author

Ben Sigel

Candidate, Fourth congressional district
It starts with automatic voting registration. We must also eliminate any barriers to voting, restrictions on early voting, opportunities for voter intimidation and suppression, and restrictions on voter identification laws and proof of citizenship. We must also eliminate voter roll purging on any basis and partisan gerrymandering and restore full voting rights for those who have been incarcerated and have served their time.

This is a long fight, but if we get this right, the memories of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Amaud Arbery, DJ Henry, Tony McDade, and so many before them will lead to a better future for all of our communities, our country, and for humanity. These vigils, protests, rallies, and marches have lit a fire underneath all of us and it has brought us together as one community. It is now on all of us to stand-up and speak out as one community and to seize the power of our voice and our vote.

Ben Sigel is a Democratic candidate for the Massachusetts 4th Congressional District. If elected, he will become the first Latino ever elected to Congress from Massachusetts.