BRADLEY — The tragic murder of George Floyd in Minnesota by Police Officer Derek Chauvin and three other officers was the match that ignited wildfires so ready to explode all over this country.

Native, Black, Brown, Jewish and Asian people have been fighting racism and prejudice for over 400 years. The pedagogy of white supremacy is in our educational institutions. Our legal systems, our local and state governments are cloaked in institutional racism. We have projected this country as being the land of the free and the home of the brave. We must remove the rotten wood of racism from the very foundation of our home.

That color makes a difference in how human beings are perceived and treated is part of this rotten foundation. The white majority think they know Native, Black and Brown people and our capabilities, but the very notion that they can define us is ludicrous. People in power address racism with a deficit from the very beginning. They have no idea. America was built with the intellectual tools of white men. One cannot build a house without knowing the environment. The Founders did know that a house divided against itself cannot stand. We now live in a house divided. It is no longer sheltering us or meeting our needs. Our home has lost its strength and integrity. It is like an igloo in the middle of summer.

It is time to step back and decide what our future home will look like and what we have to do to create it. It has to be big enough to protect all our people, traditions and cultures. One majority with one perspective and one color and one life view cannot create a strong and lasting shelter. Look around you wherever you are. How many people of color and Indigenous people are on your policymaking boards, committees and think tanks with power? The movie “A Knight’s Tale” comes to mind. After the final joust Sir William knocks the abusive and evil Count Adhemar off his horse and while Adhemar is lying helpless Sir William and his three friends stand over the count and say, “You have been weighed, you have been measured and you absolutely have been found wanting.” Sir William says, “Welcome to the new world. God save you, if it is right and just for him to do so.”

People of color have had enough of being treated as third-class citizens with no voice. The effects of this pandemic are adding to their frustration: no control, no jobs and no hope. Highlighted by the killing of George Floyd, these conditions have resulted in rebellion and chaos.

What can we do? We can listen to these voices of hopeless people. We can help them to stay alive and survive in these apocalyptic times and recognize that people of color can contribute to creative and innovative ideas.

We have had the knee of colonialism on our necks for centuries. Listen to us when we say, “We can’t breathe!” Get off our necks; let us get up and treat us with respect and dignity.

Include us in your think tanks, your task forces, your lawmaking and policymaking bodies. Let us build a new foundation for this house we call America.

It is clear that changes must be made in our educational, judicial and law enforcement institutions. It is time that a commission be appointed that will gather information from the communities of color here in Maine and put forth legislation to effect change from within. It is time for our criminal justice system to be revamped and our definitions of crimes and sentencing be reviewed.

Seats on commissions of power within the state need to be opened up to include people of color and Native people. Institutions like the University of Maine Board of Trustees at the campus levels and at the system level need to be changed to be more inclusive. Boards of private institutions that have heavy influence in our state such as Bowdoin, Bates and Colby colleges; the Maine Public TV and Radio boards; newspaper editorial boards, and town councils and select women and men all need to reflect diversity, as do the University of Maine School of Law and the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar.

No longer should we use the excuse that no qualified people of color or Native people are interested. An extensive effort needs to be undertaken to find these people. There exists a Policy Innovation Office and a commission to study the economic future of Maine. Let’s cut through this racism fog. Let’s take action. There needs to be a commission to study the future of economic equality and equal justice for the future of Maine. Policy and strategic planning must take place to change the entire racist system of infrastructure and power. Maine has an excellent university and community college system and many nonprofits that can take part in such an effort. Until this is done, there will never be fairness and equality. This bicentennial year of Maine’s statehood should be a year of contemplation and reflection. A year of new beginnings. A year of work to effect lasting change.

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