Without question, Cobb County, the State of Georgia, these United States, and the World are experiencing extraordinarily difficult and challenging times. Beginning in early March, many organizations across this country closed their doors to staff, students, patrons, and visitors due to the declaration of a public health emergency. Despite job losses, closed businesses, and the fear of contracting coronavirus, those same organizations (civic, non-profit, government, private, etc.) were intentional about finding ways to head off the negative impact of these closures. We, as a community, have created task forces to listen to concerns and needs related to our courts, governments, businesses, schools, and the like. From those very diligent and caring voices came action items and game plans to help those affected. As a result, we have fed families of all sizes, financial statuses, and ethnic backgrounds. We have shown our teachers, first responders, essential and frontline workers love through a number of initiatives as a small token of appreciation for the yeoman’s work they have done through this pandemic. This community has come together for an emergency that seemed to come out of nowhere and I have no doubt we will continue to support that effort in even greater ways.
The pandemic, however, is not over. There is yet another emergency that we face that has been raging for ages but seems to have only been noticed in recent weeks. That emergency is the global chorus of those sickened, angered, and emotionally drained by the inhumanity that we have all witnessed that disparately affects our black brothers and sisters. I say “our” because we should all care and have compassion for each other…not just those who look like us. I have hesitated on speaking out for a variety of reasons and opted to be a change agent in my own way. Now, however, is the time to speak and not the time to stand on the sidelines and be silent. As a nation we must act and use this painful time as a catalyst to change the trajectory of the way we view inequities and prejudice (systemic and otherwise) in America. We cannot do it by ignoring racism or pretending that its historical, personal, and social effects don’t exist. If we can’t talk about it, we can’t understand it, much less fix the problems that plague our society.
There will be no simple overnight solution, but we must start by examining ourselves and the systems that we can influence by setting transformative policies that promote racial reconciliation and equal justice for all. As Cobb’s District Attorney, I certainly will be working to do just that. Accountability is a non-negotiable first step for all of us, especially those of us committed to serving as we lead. Much like the action items and game plans that were quickly put into place to combat coronavirus and its collateral consequences, we must ALL mobilize for such a time as this. This is a time to listen to all voices within our community and craft actionable plans that will enable us all to work together towards a better future.
This is not, however, a time to cast a wide net of guilty association on a whole community of law enforcement and other public safety personnel. Call out and hold accountable the policy/law breakers but commit to holding up and supporting the majority of law enforcement who honorably swore an oath to protect and serve our families, neighbors and friends. The pride that I have in my black skin and in my West Indian/African heritage and the sorrow I feel when we are shown to be less than, DOES NOT prevent me from also recognizing the value of the men and women who put on the uniform. This pandemic will not be resolved by painting ourselves into corners. We MUST come together today. These are hard conversations, we are not going to all agree, people will find fault with your words and your actions — but nothing worth having comes easy. Let’s do the heavy lifting together because REAL CHANGE is worth it and because we cannot afford to stay the same!
Joyette M. Holmes
Daughter, wife, mother, sister, friend, neighbor
Cobb’s District Attorney