Several Dayton-area leaders were named as supporters of a Senate resolution declaring racism a public health crisis. Elevate Dayton is publishing the opinions, perspectives and analysis of the Dayton leaders in a series. First up is Montgomery County Recorder Brandon McClain urging the community to hold elected representatives accountable at the ballot box.
One year prior to departing this life, Congressman John Lewis spoke in protest of racism at the highest level of government. “I know racism when I see it. I know racism when I feel it. And at the highest levels of government, there's no room for racism,” Lewis said. “It sows the seeds of violence and destroys the hopes and dreams of people.”
For me, his warning was a disheartening validation of the persistent and nauseating presence of racism in our communities and its deeply-rooted infection of our nation. Historically, the affliction caused by racial oppression in the United States has been an ignored truth. Not any longer.
Today, the nation is arguably listening more than ever.
Whether as a soldier, an attorney, a member of the judiciary or a county elected official; I have always maintained the most significant role in our nation: That of a concerned citizen. This has allowed me to dedicate myself to focusing on equality for all people. Currently, many in our nation are doing the same and no longer ignoring the truth.
Nonetheless, racism is deeply embedded in the fabric of our nation. The damage, which is longstanding, can only be repaired by changing the systems of our nation. These changes must be comprehensive, including a call to action by the highest level of government.
U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., introduced a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis in our nation. Myself, and other dedicated public servants, were extended the distinct honor of being a supporting voice on behalf of our community.
The resolution recognizes the impact of race in health care outcomes — which has only been highlighted by the escalating infection, hospitalization and mortality rates of the coronavirus among African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans. The resolution also acknowledges a variety of systemic barriers that minorities commonly endure and navigate when seeking health care.
While the solution originated in the U.S. Senate, its purpose can only be fulfilled by holding our representatives accountable at the ballot box for the nation we deserve. There is no other way.
The legacy of the late Congressman Lewis taught us that during times of civil unrest, like how we are currently seeing across the nation, voting is the primary mechanism of accountability for those genuinely seeking equality. In honor of him, I ask you to heed his final warning: "The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it."
Your vote is your voice. Do not allow it to be silenced. The time is now, as tomorrow may be too late.