ColumnistsFinancial Literacy

Valuing Our Lives

The times are crazy. Last month, I discussed the struggle of living with the COVID-19 reality. The oppressive burden of always looking around for the visible enemy. The struggle of not knowing when our life will be threatened when we’re least aware. The virus that is killing the most vulnerable people. In these United States, Black and brown people are the most vulnerable.

In these United States, we are losing our lives at a rate that should not have been surprising. We know that Black and brown people have a fraction of as much economic power and net wealth of white families. The COVID-19 impact is great with more than 100,000 people having died and more than the fair share being Black and brown people. There is a reality that living in the United States can be hazardous to our health.

Then we look at the recurring cases of Black people being killed by police officers and white people with little or no consequence. The active “weaponization” of the police is now an action that people have demonstrated as the reality of Black men as targets has shown its effectiveness.

I wonder if someone had intervened when Eric Garner had cried out “I can’t breathe!” and saved his life, would George Floyd’s onlookers and videotapers have felt empowered to disrupt the action. Instead of watching a man die with another man’s knee on his neck for nine minutes, if someone would have pushed the police officer, would the chain of events have been different?

I am not judging by any means. I am struggling with the question. As a question that confronts me as a self-proclaimed Christian: Would I have been willing to risk the fragility of my life by trying to disrupt the chain of events?

Is it that we are so used to be powerless over those who oppress and victimize us that we believe we have no power? I confess, I have not watched the video of Mr. Floyd’s murder, so I have no idea of the dynamics of the moment. I watched the movie “Straight Outta Compton” for the first time the other day. There is a scene where police exerted their force against a group of men who were just standing around. This scene was a reenactment of the unjust reality and demoralizing experience it was being Black in Compton. That experience was not an anomaly.

I, like so many others, feel more vulnerable because of the recent murders. The truth is that killing has been happening since the beginning of time. The outrage is that the country, the infrastructure has been protecting and allowing the killing of Black people for more than 400 years. The devaluation of Black lives was part of the Constitution.

My question is how to step up and refuse to be victimized and assert our value. We need to see our value first and foremost. If we don’t value ourselves, why would someone else? In my job, I hear the diminution of value often when people say to me, they don’t need an estate plan because they don’t have anything. My response is always that you have a life and that is worth protecting.

Our lives are indeed an incredible gift. It is often not an easy row to hoe, but it is worth protecting and cherishing. I pray that this time of community challenge is transformative. We should each be able to take a stand against racism that may be the seed that moves us from bystander to disrupter.

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