At a time when so many of us are yet grappling with all of the emotions related to living in the age of the coronavirus pandemic, we might have imagined that the main focus of our sadness and feelings of loss would be centered around the toll the public health crisis has taken on us, the isolation of quarantine and the over 107,000 lives lost in the US alone, to COVID 19.  But then, on May 25, 2020, we witnessed on video, the unnecessary and very public death of George Floyd, a man of color, at the hand of a Minneapolis police officer.  We have unfortunately witnessed similar incidents too many times before, and coupled with the anguish so many are feeling currently, this one felt particularly raw and heart wrenching.  The grief and anger are entirely understandable and extends to members of law enforcement of all races, who were equally disturbed by this incident. Many in cities across this nation have taken to the streets to peacefully protest and show support for justice and fairness.  In some instances, the protests have turned violent, which in no way supports or contributes to a resolution.   What is needed at this time, now, more than ever, is a sense of unity against such injustice and for a clear message to be sent that such behavior is reprehensible, morally wrong and will not be tolerated.  The message needs to be loud and clear and not diluted by those who pervert it into something that it is not intended to be by causing property destruction and committing acts of violence.  Violence begets violence. 


And yet, in the midst of the heartbreaking images we witnessed in the media, there are glimmers of hope. Protests in New Jersey, notably in Camden, Newark as well as in Franklin Twp., Somerset County, have been non-violent, multi-racial and unified in spirit and purpose.  We can, indeed, find ways to seek common ground and pathways to peace. 


At Alternatives, we believe that every person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.  This includes equal treatment and access to justice.  Recent events involving violence and threats against African Americans expose our society’s underlying racism, prejudice and privilege that prevent too many people from being treated with the humanity and respect they deserve.   These incidents are abhorrent and run counter to everything that we at Alternatives believe in.  All people of all backgrounds and identities must call out discrimination and demand its removal from our society, otherwise, we are endorsing the status quo and are complacent in the abuses that follow.  We must take a look at the cultural structures and institutional racism that led not only to the death of George Floyd, but also, to the disproportionate number of deaths from COVID 19 on the part of people of color.  We need to identify the root causes of these inequities and eliminate them so we don’t have one more person losing their life for a traffic stop or simply taking a jog in their neighborhood.  Let’s raise our voices and demonstrate how together, we can make a difference and put an end to the injustices that led to George Floyd’s death and that of so many more of our citizens.  Let’s show that we, as a community can face these systemic  issues and eradicate the underlying causes of such senseless and inhumane behavior, so we can come together to show that we have so much more in common than our differences.   We, as a society, can and must do better to guarantee that the basic human rights and freedoms of every person in the community are protected. 


Nancy Good, MSW, LSW