Guest commentary: We must stand for racial justice and peace

People gather at the San Diego County administration building on May 31 to protest the death of George Floyd.
(K.C. Alfred / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Guest commentary:

While the soaring SpaceX launch [of NASA astronauts May 30] lifted our spirits and reignited our faith to achieve greatness, we are brought back to Earth with the gravity of racial injustice.

The image of a black citizen cuffed face down with three officers atop and a fourth looking on is searing. We ask ourselves how could this still happen in 21st-century America? We are shocked by the first officer using undue force and are incredulous that the fourth officer stands idly by while George Floyd gasps “I can’t breathe” for over eight minutes.

Just when we restart, we regress. The seeds of hatred have taken root in soil tilled by man’s inhumanity toward his fellow man.

We have watched anger escalate as our cities lock down a second time for an entirely different reason than the coronavirus pandemic. Peaceful cries for justice are drowned out by acts of random violence. We must protect the rights of all Americans and stop the looting.

Unchecked violence and destruction merely adds to injustice, distrust and hardship. Neighborhoods are scarred, vital jobs are lost and communities are devastated.

Enough. As we explore new worlds in space, we must implore ours to achieve greater diversity, inclusion and social justice.

The May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee to his neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest, has been at the forefront of renewed outcry, anger and debate over race relations in the United States, both in regard to police and society in general.

We can’t stand by. As a society, we wrestle with how to resolve persistent racism and violence. Transitory political denunciations have set a tone but not delivered a solution. While refinement of policing tactics show promise, denunciations of police are unproductive and dangerous because the vast majority of officers are heroes protecting all of us.

Disrespect for the rule of law jeopardizes our democracy.

We see the problem. Now let’s focus on the solution. How can we unite to make this a moment of collective action across cultural and political boundaries?

Unlike the officer standing idly by, we the people must act. I was heartened to see the citizens of La Mesa turn out to help clean their city from the debris of anarchists.

Even the sheriff in Flint, Mich., took off his riot gear and walked with peaceful protesters in solidarity. People want their anguished voices to be heard. He defused tension and created a conversation for change.

Just as the idle officer in Minneapolis should have acted against the excessive force of his fellow officer, we must never again respond with a collective shrug. Solidarity of peaceful protest demonstrates the best qualities of our freedom, yet protests alone will not yield results.

Each of us can contribute to the solution by listening carefully to all voices, casting our vote and remaining engaged to ensure racial equality. Inaction is not acceptable. We must resolve to stay involved.

With the success of the space launch, Americans should have confidence in the future and have faith that things will be better. The American spirit is resilient and overcomes despair. We have the spirit of action. We must resolve to peacefully restore order and end racial injustice for all.

Our political leadership must not be silent, distracted by the next headline or poll. We must stand for justice and act.

Jim DeBello is former chairman and chief executive of Mitek Systems, a San Diego-based software company.