June 8, 2020
This week brought a sense of sadness, frustration, fear and a range of other emotions to people across our country, due to the many levels of injustice and inequality in our nation. This is occurring in the midst of a pandemic that has created its own set of challenges and further uncovered the systemic disparities in our healthcare system. We see the pain within our communities and the frustrations of our neighbors. We might wonder how we can be of service and what can be done as we face complex issues within our country.
I wish I knew all the answers.
But when we are faced with uncertainty, we have an opportunity to learn from one another. We have the opportunity to lift each other up and see the best in our communities as we weather this storm together. This unprecedented moment in time has required all of us to reflect on what equality for all Americans must mean. It has asked us to consider: What is ours to do?
The upsetting images I’ve seen over the last several days brought to mind an incident that has helped shape what I believe is the answer to this question.
Several years ago, a husband and his wife had returned to their 4th floor condo when their 1st floor neighbor called the police and said someone was breaking into their home. The police came to the 4th floor unit. The husband started talking to one police officer when a second one showed up. He drew his weapon, threw the man on the ground, put handcuffs on him and put his foot on the man’s neck. The police then dragged him down several flights of stairs to the first level of the building. Neighbors kept yelling to the police that the man lived in the building, but no matter what was said, the excessive force continued.
The man in this story was my husband.
I’m grateful that this incident did not come to a tragic end. But it brings forward the fact that no one is immune to these issues. We all have a part in ensuring a more equal and just world. That is why our purpose at Easterseals resonates loudly during these troubling times: we are committed to creating a world in which each and every one of us is 100% included and 100% empowered.
What is ours to do in order to realize this vision?
At Easterseals, we seek to educate people about the barriers children and adults with disabilities, caregivers, veterans and their families face when participating in our communities whether that represents access to education, health care, employment and other life experiences to which we are all entitled. Often these barriers are more difficult to overcome for minorities.
Inequality, no matter what form it takes, is unacceptable. But I see hope in the tough conversations we are currently having throughout our nation, including those we’re having with our friends and loved ones. I see people coming together to support and understand one another. I see citizens and communities working together to protect each other. I see us speaking up when our neighbors are unjustly treated, just like my neighbors did all those years ago. I truly believe these are important steps forward.
I want to encourage each of us to remain safe, reflective and involved in identifying and supporting solutions to come out of this moment better and stronger as a nation. We can all find ways to bring forward societal change so that every single person in America is valued, accepted and respected. This includes registering to vote and encouraging others to do so as well as participating in Census 2020 to ensure people in underserved populations are represented and heard.
We are truly in this together.
Angela F. Williams
President and CEO, Easterseals