Though many breathed a sigh of relief following the verdict this week that Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was deemed guilty for the death of George Floyd, leadership of the National Organization of Minority Architects penned a sobering letter pointing out the difference between accountability and justice, and noting the work that still needs to be done. NOMA's former president, Kimberly Dowdell, and current president, Jason Pugh, challenge the A&D community to continue "to fight all systems of bias, oppression, and prejudice" in the letter below.
NOMA Elevates Justice for ALL
On May 31, 2020, the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) responded with a tremendously heavy heart in reaction to the murder of George Floyd. This tragedy was emblematic of a larger system of oppression and injustice in the U.S. After the release of our B.R.A.V.E. statement, NOMA’s leadership was heartened by the colleagues, friends, and allies that reached out with support and acknowledgment of the long-standing racial divide in the nation and in our industry.
On April 20, 2021, a jury honored the value of George Floyd’s life with a guilty verdict rendered in the trial of Derek Chauvin—a white man and police officer who senselessly murdered Floyd in Minneapolis. While more discriminate violence at the hands of police continued, the country waited with bated breath and a mix of emotions as the guilty verdict was shared. For most in the Black and Latino community, our immediate reactions of relief and celebration, quickly turned to reflective sadness and frustration once we realized we were celebrating something that should be so clear and apparent for our legal justice system.
Yesterday's guilty verdict is NOT JUSTICE. Justice comes with the deliverance of quick and fair sentencing, without risk of delays or approved appeals. Yesterday's guilty verdict is ACCOUNTABILITY. Accountability that was long overdue, and required the world's focus, a national movement, countless protests, and the courage of a select few officers to bravely cross the blue wall of silence against a white police officer who kneeled on a Black man's neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds.
Yesterday has the potential to be a turning point—but it's not a static pivot. The guilty verdict moves us in the direction of equity and the nation's fight to end white supremacy. White supremacy’s end simply stands for the start of recognized human dignity for everyone—no matter your race, color, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, ability, or economic status.
Last year was traumatic on many different levels. At least the outcome of this historic trial begins to relieve the pressure on our collective necks as we gasped for the air of true freedom as equal citizens. Even though the injustices that ranged from slavery to Emmett Till and Jim Crow to Breonna Taylor remain heavy in our memories, we can begin to point to a precedent of accountability. This is now the beginning of the healing process.
We—our members, friends, colleagues, families, communities, and nation—have to reflect on the events of the past year, including the continued incidents of violence against people of color, and use this as fuel to move in the right direction, which is towards equal treatment for all. It is notable that we mark this moment of truth in history during NOMA's 50th year. It should not have taken 50 years to have difficult conversations about race in our profession. Now that the conversations have started, we cannot stop until we get it right.
On behalf of George Floyd, the jury got it right. As we think about how we can build from the momentum of this historic decision, we challenge everyone to fight all systems of bias, oppression, and prejudice. As a profession, it’s time to get back to work.
— Jason Pugh, AIA, AICP, LEED AP, NOMA President 2021-2022 and Kimberly Dowdell, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BC + C, NOMA President 2019-2020