The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, by a police officer, is horrifying, tragic, and incomprehensible. It is something that the people of Biddeford, as well as our police department, do not condone, as we all reject racial discrimination and all forms of discrimination.
While his death has unleashed the anger and frustration of thousands, across the country and the world, it also bares, for all to see, the tragedy and pain of institutional and individual racism in America.
While the calendar may read 2020, it is clear, that in many ways, our racist past still permeates our actions and thoughts. Too often, we turn a blind eye to the realities of what occurs throughout our country, perhaps hoping that it will simply go away, but while we do so, the ongoing onslaught of suffering and discrimination continues to fester.
Biddeford, for the past 150 years, has been home to many individuals of different races and creeds. Workers in the mill were Italian, Franco, Irish, Albanian, Greek, and many other nationalities. A strong Jewish population has been present, and the first mosque in America was in the mill. Even today, Biddeford is home to Iraqis, Somalis, Syrians, and others, who have been displaced by war, famine, and ethnic conflict. They came here because of our freedom, our ideals, and our aspirations.
Unfortunately, even here, in our community, the fear of the unknown too often undermines the relationships that people have with each other. Differences in religion, politics, sexual orientation, culture, race, and ethnicity provoke suspicion, and the demonization of those who are different morphs into the stereotypical and destructive tools of hate and bigotry.
Tonight, I ask the people of Biddeford for greater compassion. We need a community in which people are not defined by the color of their skin, but by what is in our hearts. While we justly must feel anger in the death of Mr. Floyd, we, as a community, must work towards embracing each other’s differences, and be determined to stand up to intolerance, racism, and hate.
Let us embrace our common humanity and build bridges instead of walls. The evils of systematic racism, sexism, and poverty in America should have been dismantled decades ago, yet today we see more and more individuals espousing and amplifying words of division, mockery, and hate. Their vision of America the America in which I believe.
Let us start today, by reaching out to each other, and promising to work together to rekindle the American Dream. A few months ago, in response to a hate crime, I urged us all to reach out and heal the divisions among us. Throughout the nation, others, for decades, have urged the same, yet here we are, in June of 2020, still witnessing pain, suffering, poverty, and the feelings of hopelessness.
We, as Americans, can be better. We must be better. George Floyd did not deserve to die. Tonight, I ask myself what more must I do to eradicate hate and injustice. I ask you, once again, what can you do to change our community and to change America. Like you, I am tired of the hate, tired of the suffering, tired of the violence of words and actions. Let us heal together, by making our small part of America a home of love, a home of peace, and a home of compassion.