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Open Letter to Stakeholders Regarding The Unfinished Work to ‘Form a More Perfect Union’

“I can’t breathe.” Those chilling words from Eric Garner in 2014, repeated by George Floyd last week, represent more than just the final words of unarmed African Americans whose lives were cut short by the actions of law enforcement acting in an unconscionable manner.

“I can’t breathe” represents the soul of a movement, now global, that has mobilized to help society understand that America’s principle of “all men created equal” is far too distant for far too many.

“I can’t breathe” represents not only those who tragically uttered those words in the waning moments of their lives, but for all who have lost liberty and life in racially charged incidents.

“I can’t breathe” is also what so many of us – of all races, creeds, and backgrounds – feel today. The explosion of political division and lack of civility in our public discourse. The fear of a global pandemic. The economic costs associated with our need to stay home to stay safe. The realization that the ugliness of racism is far too prevalent in our society. The combined pressures are perhaps the greatest in modern times.

There is, however, reason to be thankful. Thankful for the thousands, if not millions, who are peacefully and effectively expressing their First Amendment rights. Thankful for the countless brave law enforcement personnel who have enabled protesters to stay safe in the face of those who prioritize destruction over progress. Thankful for the scores of people helping the Floyd family deal with their grief. Thankful for those committed to unifying people and making society better.

Addressing racism and ensuring true opportunity and equity for all will not be easy. The necessary effort will push us out of our comfort zones. But the discomfort of those who need to come together to solve long-standing issues related to the disparity of outcomes based on skin color pales in comparison to the lack of opportunity, lack of respect and more tragically – the all too frequent depravation of life – that our friends and neighbors of color have experienced for far too long. We all must recognize that the status quo is not acceptable and our Founding Fathers’ words to “form a more perfect union” reminds us that important work is yet to be done.

We don’t have all of the answers at the Detroit Regional Chamber. But we are committed to being part of the solution, even if it makes us uncomfortable at times. As an organization that has championed civility in our public discourse, we hope our platform can be helpful in making progress in a respectful manner. We all need to work together to banish the words “I can’t breathe.”

Sandy K. Baruah
President and CEO
Detroit Regional Chamber