A Matter of Life and Death

The news media have jumped at everything 2020 has thrown at them; but without much follow-up. To be fair, there has been a lot to monitor at this unprecedented time. As an immigrant-owned law firm focused on the practice of U.S. immigration law, there has been much for us to track on behalf of our clients. As a small employer hit by the economic fallout of the pandemic, we’ve had to pivot like many others.

It was mid-March when we in the United States had to begin thinking through a new litany of things before leaving our homes with this new threat to our lives. The usual checklist of wallet, keys, phone, has grown. Do I have hand sanitizer? Do I need gloves? In what direction do the political winds blow where I’m headed? Does my mask look like I’m on a particular end of the political spectrum? Will wearing a mask make me a target?

This threat of leaving home is new to us. However, it is not entirely alien to African American families in this country, who have to decide when to have “the talk” with their sons, and their daughters, too. They have to be warned about looking threatening or being disrespectful to police. “Do what you have to do to come home safe – to stay alive.” This hasn’t just been going on since we saw a Minneapolis police officer defiantly look into the camera lens of a teenage girl as he took 8 minutes and 46 seconds to choke the life from George Floyd, an unarmed black man. It didn’t begin in March, when we all started worrying about a virus. This is a centuries-old reality, and it is high time that we all recognize systemic racism for what it is and root it out. Once we saw it with our own eyes, none of us could claim we still didn’t know. For years we’ve heard names: Eric Gardner, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor…. But there are so many others whose names have been lost in the lies that were told to justify their murders before we knew better.

As immigrants to this country, we don’t see the goal of treating everyone fairly as a political issue. We see it as a human issue. As stated in the recent MurthyBlog entry from Sheela Murthy, unless all people living in this country – or any country – are treated equally, that country cannot proclaim itself to be free, and will not be seen as free by the rest of the world.

When we established the MurthyNAYAK Foundation (MNF) following the events of 9/11, we said, “Baltimore to Bangalore – each life matters,” because we actually believe it. MNF recently made a $5000 donation to the Innocence Project (www.innocenceproject.org), founded in 1992 by Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck at Cardozo School of Law, which exonerates the wrongly convicted through DNA testing and reforms the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice. Until all are free, no one is truly free. Until black lives matter to everyone, saying that all lives matter is a lie.

While the media chases down the next thing 2020 has in store, we feel strongly that the time is now for a shift that fully endows all those living in this country with their certain inalienable rights and protects them equally under the law. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., from Letter from the Birmingham Jail, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We have to fight injustice and call it out every time we see it. This is a responsibility of citizenship. This is a human responsibility.


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