FIELDS: So, what do we do next?

Raleigh Police block Fayetteville Street at Hargett Street as they work to return order after a night of violent demonstrations early Sunday, May 31, 2020, in Raleigh, N.C., as people nationwide protested the Memorial Day death of George Floyd, who died in police custody in Minneapolis. (Robert Willett/The News & Observer via AP)

Racism and the notion of white supremacy are congenital illnesses born into the flawed fabric of America’s founding. Underscored by poverty, oppression, discrimination, and systemic racism, they have infected the nation with a terminal disease. The prognosis is grim without lifelong treatment and constant monitoring to prevent them from metastasizing and afflicting future generations. It will take change … it will take fundamental and comprehensive change at every level of our society to make this nation a safer, more equitable, and better place for everyone.

One of my favorite quotes is, “If nothing changes, nothing changes.” For many of us, change is a dirty word; a terrifying, uncomfortable, and inconvenient process — that for most non-black Americans seems unnecessary. But until those who are unaffected by systemic racism are as outraged as those who are, we can expect there to be unrest. No justice, no peace. How do we change, and what do we change?

It’s only complicated if we don’t want to do it. We will need to change our minds about how we think and speak about others who look and act differently from us. Employers will need to change policies and procedures at small businesses and corporations — and change how they recruit, hire, and train employees. Hearts, minds, systems, and laws all will need to change… now.

The history of racial oppression and domestic terrorism against black people in America is well-documented. The irony and hypocrisy that it is black men who are to be feared in this nation would be laughable if it weren’t so sad and so serious — considering the tens of thousands of black corpses laid bare at the hands of slave masters, lynch mobs, and rogue police officers. The development of this nation is built on tyranny toward people of color, stemming from the plagues of slavery, Jim Crow laws, segregation, mass incarceration, racial discrimination, economic redlining, and implicit bias throughout every established institution in this country.

While no one is above the disparate “rule of law,” there must be an acknowledgement of and intentional focus on rectifying the presumption of guilt toward black men — and some real work toward healing the gaping wounds of distrust and mistreatment that have festered from unchecked hatred and fear.

I’m an African American business owner in downtown Raleigh whose windows were broken out and whose property was damaged. I can — and will — repair the building. I’m still more upset and disappointed that we’re “debating” and protesting about whether our neighbors’ lives matter.

When officers in law enforcement are seeking help from the community, they issue an APB — or an All-Points Bulletin. Solutions to embrace the disenfranchised need an APB: where opportunities are equally Accessible, Profitable, and Beneficial so that pursuit of them is worthwhile. If you are benefiting from a system designed to uplift and protect you and yours — while it simultaneously oppresses, devalues, and demonizes others — you will eventually come face-to-face with the inconvenient truth that if you are not part of the solution, you are undeniably part of the problem. Silence is a vote of affirmation.

When I think of persistent racism in America, I envision a magnificent home built on a faulty, weak, and cracked foundation. No matter how well constructed the house is and how beautiful the finishes or furniture are, the stability of the house is tenuous because at any moment, the foundation can shift and bring down the house. Truth be told: the foundation of America was wrong; so therefore, the future of America is in jeopardy until we fix the foundation.

Subsequently, moving into the house decades or centuries later only means you didn’t build the house; it doesn’t mean you won’t be impacted by the shoddy foundation work. If you are living in a house with a bad foundation, then you will have to deal with repairing the problems — like it, or not.

Moving forward, everybody needs to take a step toward positive change and rejecting the status quo. This is not about “they” and “them.” This is about us. We are all here together. Black people are 13% of the U.S. population, so the solution will never solely rest upon the Black community. The solution relies on all of us to reject what is wrong, to change what is wrong, and to do what is right.

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will.”

~ Frederick Douglass

V.K. Fields is an African American college professor, minister, and entrepreneur whose business also was vandalized by protestors in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina.