This letter is in response to the letter to the editor published on May 23rd in the Santa Monica Daily Press We’re all in this together? Ha! and the Committee for Racial Justice (CRJ)’s letter to the editor Silence is Complicity published on May 30th. The Human Relations Council of the Santa Monica Bay Area is a nonprofit organization that promotes a culture of fair treatment, inclusion and equal access to opportunities. We are in agreement with the CRJ that if we are not working to be anti-racist, we are complicit in the systemic oppression of black people, brown people, and other people of color. We cannot be silent when we see racism, we must seek accountability, seek justice, and proactively move towards an equitable society while avoiding the incitement to violence which is anathema to the purpose of our Human Relations Council.

Ahmaud Arbery.

Breonna Taylor.

George Floyd.

Tony McDade.

David McAtee.

We say their names because they matter. Americans have been systematically murdered, oppressed, and discriminated against for centuries solely due to the color of their skin, and it continues to this day. Our country was built on slavery and systemic oppression, but we can and must make the choice to build a better future. It must start now, and it must start with each of us.

Those of us who are white must recognize our white privilege and use it to lift up those who have not had the opportunities or benefits based on nothing more than the color of their skin. We must all use our privilege to call out and end racism in our communities. We must all use it to hold those responsible for heinous acts of violence, including non-physical acts of violence, accountable. We must demand accountability from those who perpetrate these acts and demand justice for the victims. We must educate ourselves and do the work.

Empathy for those who have experienced racism is not enough. Collectively, we must all take action. A few days ago, a video was shared on social media of a white woman breaking the rules in a public park and threatening a black man when he asked her to comply with the rules. There were a lot of issues identified with this exchange: the woman’s entitlement, her privilege, her implicit understanding of the skewed power dynamic between her and the man. The woman was put on administrative leave from her job, and later fired. Her (former) employer released a statement that the firm “does not tolerate racism of any kind.” Regardless of whether you agree with their decision, this was a way for the woman to be held accountable.

The Human Relations Council believes that ALL Americans should be allowed to breathe, and enjoy the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, that can only come from ensuring justice for all.

Submitted by John Maceri on behalf of the Santa Monica Bay Area Human Relations Council