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Judge Penny Brown Reynolds: ‘America, I dare you not listen!’

Photo provided by Judge Penny Brown Reynolds

Something feels different in America this time. It feels different because something is different. We are at a turning point. Without question, there is nothing new about the injustices and dehumanization of Black people at the hands of law enforcement and a criminal justice system that has been used as a tool of oppression to people of color for generations.

What is different is the fact that while the world and America were forced to stop for the COVID-19 pandemic, we witnessed the horrific execution of George Floyd at the hands of the police. The image was stunning and horrific as Floyd was killed before our eyes, while he literally begged for his life.

The police officer’s knee on Floyd’s neck symbolized something greater. After all the years of navigating the burdens of being Black and the sheer exhaustion of living with the systematic racism embedded in every area of life, our youth immediately started to “feel” what they were witnessing.

Young and old from different races have taken to the streets. The protests have captured the attention of the world. It is a much-needed awakening of America’s conscience that cannot be ignored or unaddressed this time.

This younger generation feels unheard and oppressed. Some older people thought that they were indifferent and didn’t care about participating in civic engagement. My observations are not coming from my time serving as a judge, but rather from what I witnessed while teaching a class on race and the criminal justice system at Georgia State University. To my amazement, I found racially diverse students who had a mere cursory knowledge of the history of slavery and its aftermath in the United States and an even less knowledge base about the Civil Rights Movement.

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