It is easier for me to stay alive because I am white. This may be a controversial statement for some, but we can no longer deny its truth. Our national consciousness consumes videos every day of black and brown people subject to egregious physical force by law enforcement, which ends in their death more often than we care to admit.

The first murder I ever witnessed was the killing of Ahmaud Arbery. The killing of George Floyd was the second. Both were at the hands of powerful white men. I can’t stop thinking about these two men and the many others who have come before them, about their mothers, their families and friends, and about their valuable lives that were taken away with complete disregard for their value.

I understand why my black and brown friends and family members can’t watch these videos; the pain, anger and frustration with the world their children and grandchildren are growing up in is too great to bear. Each day I think about this I am overcome with grief and anger too.

Can you imagine your son going for a run and being pursued and killed by a former law enforcement officer, like Ahmaud Arbery was? Can you imagine that the district attorney in that case, responsible for prosecuting crimes and protecting victims, failing to file charges against the perpetrators, instead recusing himself before the video was posted to social media and the outrage of the entire country finally culminated in arrests by state investigators? Can you imagine a police officer pinning the neck of your brother, George Floyd, to the ground with his knee despite your brother calling out, “Please, I can’t breathe,” despite calls from witnesses to stop while other officers stood by watching your brother die? I cannot imagine that for my family.

It is in this disconnection that our country’s apathy toward this problem lies – an apathy so pervasive and insidious that it runs through every system we have created. I am white, so this is not my reality. Yet for nearly half of the population in this country who are black and brown, this is their reality, every day. This is not right.

Here is something else that is not right: In Maine, as of Friday, black and brown people account for nearly 20 percent of the state’s 2,226 COVID-19 cases, That is 441 people. You may ask, how can this data be so out of balance in a state that is 94 percent white?

A friend of mine reached out to me yesterday. He told me that he and the seven members of his family have just recovered from COVID-19. He told me that at the height of his illness, in the hospital, he didn’t think he would ever see his wife and children again. Just a few days post recovery, in a weakened state, he is returning to his home health aide job where he contracted the virus. My friend was a law professor in his home country. My friend’s skin is black.

In words we have glorified the work of “essential workers” like my friend. We use that term because we know our communities can’t live without the services they provide. If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that these words of gratitude are meaningless gestures when essential workers are among the lowest paid, often with no paid sick leave or health care. These words do nothing to change the fact that black and brown people are contracting COVID-19 and other diseases at greater rates than white people because of the living and working conditions that are available to them.

So many things must change. It is time to see color and make those changes together.

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