Last month, millions of Americans saw video footage of a Minneapolis police officer with his knee on the neck of George Floyd for nearly nine minutes, killing Mr. Floyd. Black men and women being killed at the hands of law enforcement is not new. In March, Breonna Taylor, was killed in her own home by Louisville police officers. But now, cell phones and body cameras have forced many who have never faced discrimination, threats, or violence from the police, to reckon with the fact that our system has failed many of our communities.
Floyd’s death, Taylor’s, and others, like Ahmaud Arbery, moved millions, not just in America, but around the world to demand their leaders make fundamental changes to how police interact with communities that have been empowered to protect.
Racial inequality and injustice have been part of our nation’s history from the beginning. People of color -- especially our Black and brown communities -- have encountered barriers to employment, to educational opportunities, to health care, and to housing.
The recent protests over police brutality and institutional racism are part of a long tradition used by Civil Rights activists to compel our country’s leaders to address racial inequality. Americans have once again stood up and raised their voices demanding reform, accountability, transparency, and their constitutionally-guaranteed rights for all. As elected leaders we must listen, we must learn, we must act.
As Governor, I am committed to ensuring this latest tragedy does not fade into the next news cycle. Communities of color do not have the luxury of time for leaders to ignore these issues any longer. Systemic racism within law enforcement must end.
That’s why I am announcing that I am convening a diverse and qualified group of Kansas stakeholders, including members of law enforcement and advocacy groups, to form the Commission on Racial Equity and Justice. Its purpose is to develop and recommend policy actions my administration can take to create meaningful and lasting change.
COVID-19 has brought innumerable challenges to Kansas and our country, but it has also provided an opportunity to awaken many to inequities that exist at every level our society. We must seize this moment to engage Kansans, to root out the causes, and to make definitive change.
How we move forward will depend upon the willingness of people on both sides of the aisle and of every creed and color to find common ground. Change occurs when we allow ourselves to put our differences aside, work through our shared values to have honest conversations and create real solutions.
Laura Kelly is the 48th governor of Kansas.