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We have been jolted awake ... now let’s heal the wounds

Family, friends and community members march on Saturday, June 6, 2020, from the state Capitol to 900 South and 300 West in Salt Lake City, the area where Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal was shot and killed by police on May 23.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

The last several days have been wrenching for our nation and state. My own emotions have been on a roller coaster. I’ve seen, mostly via TV, police brutality, senseless deaths, peaceful protests, courageous law enforcement action, violent rioting, malicious looting — along with many acts of kindness, compassion, service, forgiveness and grace.

We have seen the whole range of human behavior, the best and worst of individuals and society.

After much thought, one humbling thing has become clear to me. While I have tried my entire life to be empathetic, to treat all people with caring and respect, I have not fully understood, and perhaps never will, the depth of pain, anxiety and suspicion that members of our black and brown communities feel as a result of longstanding racial inequality and distrust.

The deaths of George Floyd and other black people have struck a nerve so deep and sensitive among these communities that all of us have been jolted and awakened to festering wounds that have not healed. As someone who has obviously never experienced life as a person of color, I have not fully grasped the gravity and intensity of these feelings.

And, thus, at this tipping point in history, we are having conversations that are both uncomfortable and necessary. It won’t be easy, but I believe we can emerge much better than before. Many of us are now thinking and stretching, in ways we haven’t previously, to determine how we can unite in creating a more just and equal society. It will be difficult, and will take sustained effort and time. It starts with our own hearts and souls.

I have been touched by the heartfelt statements released by a wide variety of individuals. While some might note that these are people of privilege and power, they have been humbled by this transformative moment and they are committed to make a difference. Here are some excerpts:

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, while marching Sunday with protesters in Washington, D.C.: ”We need a voice against racism, we need many voices against racism and against brutality. And we need to stand up and say Black Lives Matter.” He earlier said: “We are all children of God, equal in His eyes. And I am committed to continuing to listen and to learn from Utahns about the changes we must make together to ensure the full promise of America for all its people.”

Mayor Erin Mendenhall, Salt Lake City. “The path with the greatest potential for good begins with ‘we.’ ... Let us rise together as we take this opportunity head on. Together we will commit to this critical work in the months and years ahead with an open heart, mind and imagination — and a healthy dose of kindness and grace.”

Gail Miller, owner of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies. “As I stated on the basketball court of Vivint Smart Home Arena last year, ‘We believe in treating all people with courtesy and respect as human beings … no one wins when respect goes away.’ It is my sincerest hope that we will work together, peacefully and respectfully, to put an end to the mistreatment of any human being.”

Harris Simmons, chairman and CEO of Zions Bancorporation. “I hope each one of us will consider seriously the opportunity we have to build stronger relationships ... especially with colleagues whose backgrounds, characteristics and perspectives differ from our own. Tolerance should never be the objective; none of us aspire to be tolerated. Our lives will be most abundant as we move beyond tolerance and form real friendships with those outside our usual circles and determine to do all we can to help them succeed.”

Dr. Marc Harrison, president and CEO of Intermountain Healthcare. “We live in communities enriched by diversity. ... Free speech, fair policing, and peaceful protests are all part of the American way of life. For all forms of discrimination to end, and greater equity to truly take hold, we all must be part of the solution. ... By walking the walk arm-in-arm, all 41,000 of us can make a difference at the individual and collective level. We can start by listening to and truly hearing those who are hurting during this difficult time.”

Gov. Gary R. Herbert and members of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Commission and the Utah Multicultural Commission. “We are here to make the necessary call for us all to work together, to help one another, to listen intentionally to those who feel unheard, to be braver and better, to create the solution for such a time as this, and commit to eradicate racism from our thoughts, words, deeds and actions. ... The time to usher in change and healing is now. ... We look forward to advancing efforts for change and creating a Utah where families of all races and backgrounds feel safe, heard and valued.”

President Russell M. Nelson, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “We need to foster our faith in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. We need to foster a fundamental respect for the human dignity of every human soul, regardless of their color, creed or cause. And we need to work tirelessly to build bridges of understanding rather than creating walls of segregation. I plead with us to work together for peace, for mutual respect and for an outpouring of love for all of God’s children.”

Personally, I hope we will use this period of improvement to truly make the promise of our Declaration of Independence a reality for all — every human is created equal and enjoys unalienable rights endowed by our Creator. I am committed to do better, to listen more, empathize more and support equality — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans.