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Guest Commentary: Keep the graffiti from George Floyd protests as a reminder of this fight for justice

The institutional racism pervading police forces everywhere denies protection to those who need it most, from those whose duty it is to provide it. George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor are only the most recent victims of police brutality and racism engrained in the American psyche. Their names are added to a list so long that most cannot recite it from memory. They are victims of racism in a time when we preach progress and equality.

Our parents and grandparents lived through the era of Jim Crow and the Civil Rights movement. In their lifetimes, what’s changed as it pertains to this fight? Laws have changed, but the treatment of the members of the black community in America largely has not. Tremendous progress has been made but this fight for justice is far from over. It is crucial to understand the goal is and always was that black Americans should not fear for their lives when interacting with the police and in their everyday encounters. Laws have changed, but that’s not enough. We vow to never forget in the aftermath of each victim of police brutality, but then it happens again and again. The truth is that racism is still alive and well.

Accountability for failure to protect our minorities needs to start at the top. The president needs to recognize the importance of these protests and their unified message. A month ago, protestors took to the streets to reopen America, calling shelter in place orders an “injustice.” The president called the protestors in Michigan “the good people of Michigan.” Yet protestors everywhere calling for justice and reform to institutional racism are “thugs?” Plain and simple, he who has the power also has the responsibility to condemn these hate crimes and to initiate the change. His failure to acknowledge what is going on in this country sends a signal to other authority heads that rampant racism may continue unchecked.

My husband remarked to me that these protests can’t stop now. The only way change will come about is if these protests continue, day in and day out. I happen to think he is right. If the protests stop, what will have been accomplished? Justice may be served in this case but what about next time or the time after that? Are we to take to the streets each time and protest? No, that’s a Band-Aid approach to this fight. This momentum needs to continue to bring about systemic change. The whole point is that there can’t be a next time. This was it. This was the last time.

And so, just as we live in a world with Holocaust museums and memorials, so should we preserve the history of the fight for justice that’s going on right now. Change is ugly, uncomfortable, loud, raucous, and painful. We need to understand that we are the authors of the history books, and we have the power to influence how this chapter is written. To clean up the graffiti is to whitewash history, to censor this movement, and to allow us to forget what
happened. World War II Holocaust memorials allow us to “never forget,” and remind us “never again.”

For this reason, the graffiti should be preserved. Sheath the walls with plexiglass. Let the spray painted boards covering windows tell their stories. Preservation will serve as a constant reminder to us who lived through it. Preservation will allow future generations to understand this fight. In every American city where protests are occurring, preserve it all.

Let every piece serve as a symbol of our power to bring meaningful and lasting change, and to remind all who see it “never again.”

Adam Rosen is a marketing professional who has lived in Denver for the past 11 years. He lives
with his husband and three dogs.

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