Racism is America’s original sin. Racism that built this nation using the free labor of enslaved Africans. Racism embedded in our original Constitution, claiming that my Black ancestors held only 3/5 of value compared to a white person. Racism that led to racial segregation and discriminatory laws in education, housing and employment. Racism that created a system of law enforcement designed to disproportionately incarcerate Black Americans. For over 400 years, America has used racism to build a wall around Black Americans. This wall has kept Black Americans excluded from opportunities to learn, to work and to vote.

Enough. It is time for America’s wall of racism to come down.

The murder of George Floyd by now former Minneapolis police officers is the latest, but sadly, not the first example deadly police tactics against unarmed African American males by some in law enforcement. Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Alton Sterling, Philando Castille, Walter Scott, Oscar Grant, Amadou Diallo, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice and Stephon Clark have become mournfully familiar names in our community. Each death a reminder of failed leadership and a call to fix our broken system.

Change is difficult, change can be painful – but change is necessary now more than ever. As a former Assemblymember and State Senator, I experienced my fair share of resistance on policies that are widely accepted today. In 2014, I successfully authored legislation to ban the sale or display of the Confederate flag on state property. But that wasn’t before a number of my colleagues attempted to stop or weaken the legislation. We fought on. We organized. We would not compromise. And in the end, we won. Following our victory, nine states and the District of Columbia banned the display of the Confederate flag. Our actions started a movement to ban images of hate across the nation and is a lesson we should remember today.

Tearing down the wall of hate against Black Americans will take the work of us all. For the past several weeks, Black Americans, white Americans, Asian-Pacific Islander Americans, Latinx Americans, LGBTQ Americans and Americans of every faith have marched  – from the steps of the White House to street corners in towns and cities across this country. From every intersection of this nation, cracks in America’s wall of racism are showing up in the most unlikely of places. Peaceful acts of protest and occupied city squares in urban and rural America demanding justice for Black victims of law enforcement violence continue. We must do more than march – we must demand action.

Action like ending law enforcement use of choke holds and carotid restraint. Action like requiring all law enforcement officers to wear body cameras while on duty. Action like strengthening our use of force standards to promote de-escalation. Action like ending racial profiling by law enforcement. Action like requiring independent investigations of officer involved shootings. Action like restoring voting rights for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated citizens. Action like rethinking the role, responsibility and culture of law enforcement away from further militarization and towards peaceful resolutions of conflict. Action like funding economic and social empowerment programs for the youth and future leaders of our community. These actions will not be easy, but they are necessary to help tear down the wall of racism and build trust between Black Americans and law enforcement.

Black lives matter is not a slogan; it is our nation’s call to action. It is a reminder of the sacrifice of our Black ancestors. It is a wake-up call for our nation to atone the sins of our past. It is a unifying movement to tear down the wall of racism against Black Americans. It is a demand to end systematic violence against African Americans. We must seize this moment and act. The lives of Black Americans depend on it.