Op-ed: ‘We are a nation at war with our soul’

Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, candidate for Congress NY-14 Democratic Primary
Courtesy of Michelle Caruso-Cabrera

BY MICHELLE CARUSO CABRERA, CANDIDATE FOR CONGRESS NY-14 DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY 

These past three months New Yorkers here in Queens and the Bronx have suffered so much. As you are reading this, you yourself may have lost loved ones. Unfortunately, we all know somebody who has.

Little did we know that the death and sickness from the coronavirus would be just the beginning of the heart-breaking events we would have to endure. A health crisis. An economic crisis. A racial justice crisis. How much can we take?

I see modern-day breads lines throughout our neighborhoods made up of the thousands in our community who have lost their jobs. They ask me “When will this end?” As I give them a protective mask, I wish I could give them an answer too.

And today, our city and indeed our country are still suffering from another long festering, and tragic disease: racism.

Our black and brown neighbors continue to be the target not just of COVID, but also of a flawed criminal justice system. What happened in Minneapolis is an unspeakable horror, but we must speak about it.

The pain our country feels is raw. The people of this city and this nation are angry. We all grieve along with the Floyd family. We cry out in anger with all those who say, “How many times must this story play out? When will this nation finally say: no more!”

Enough. We need unity. The city needs unity. The country needs unity. Only by working together can we overcome this enormous problem and help rebuild trust between our communities and the police who take an oath to protect them.

Governor Cuomo is right to call on the New York’s most senior African American official, Attorney General Leticia James to investigate the actions of the police in the last week. And most importantly, he has asked that she report back in 30 days. No dragging it out so long that people are no longer paying attention.

Civilian oversight of policing is one way to ensure accountability and consequences for officers who abuse their positions with excessive use of force.

Respect shouldn’t be just for the powerful and empowered. There should be respect for all regardless of race, color and creed.

The looting and destruction in the last week is yet another injustice to George Floyd. His murder is at risk of being overshadowed by those who are using it as an excuse for mayhem. We cannot let that happen. We cannot lose our focus.

I “attended” Corona Congregational Church this weekend, listening to Reverend Reginald Brantley’s sermon through my speakers on Zoom. What he said was sad but also eloquent: “We are a nation at war with our soul.”

New Yorkers, who know this pandemic and its ravages better than anyone, are jeopardizing their lives by joining large crowds in peaceful protest to demand social justice and an end to police brutality. We want the soul of our nation to heal. We must come together to make that happen.

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