This year is unlike any other in our nation's history. While the battle to overcome COVID-19 dominated our national attention, the death of George Floyd and subsequent discussions about race in America have caused politicians, including my opponent, U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips, to engage in "virtue signaling" and attempt to redefine America. They are wrong.

Phillips has used the turmoil as an opportunity to join the progressive left and promote a dogma of division in an attempt to redefine America as a "systemically racist" country. In doing so, he offered a reading list for white Americans, told Third District residents how to raise their kids and denigrated the law enforcement community on social media.

For me, as an African American, the most insulting and condescending claim from Phillips was the implication that white Americans are where they are in life due to "unearned power that comes with privilege" and that they must use this "privilege to support Black communities" to "create the world we want to see."

Quite frankly, Dean, I spent my whole life rejecting those who claimed they had "power" over me and my situation in life. I rejected the gang members and thugs in Harlem who tried to bully me into the street culture. I rejected the fate of living in a trailer park and growing up in a broken home. And I rejected the narrative that I could only succeed in life at the mercy of the third wealthiest member of Congress, with "unearned power" of "privilege."

I took it upon myself to "create the world" I wanted to see. I worked full time while in college, served in the U.S. Army, had a successful career in the health care industry, married my high school sweetheart, and had five beautiful children. I took the "power" to control my own life and, like millions of Americans of all creeds and colors, I fulfilled my dreams in the process.

In short, Phillips' suggestion that it is up to others to give Black Americans "the world we want to see" denies me and my fellow Black Americans the personal agency to create our own story and fulfill our own dreams.

As individuals and as a community, we must reject this narrative. More than that — as individuals, as a community, and as a country — we must focus on the shared barriers which confine us, the shared reforms which help us, and the shared experience which unites us.

This election is about our country's direction. We must fight the ideology of destruction and those who promote the vision of America as a systemically racist country. We must fight those who enable and spread this vision, paving the way for mob rule in the process.

My opponent propels this message after self-funding his last campaign, despite pledging not to self-fund. Do I begrudge him for his wealth? No, because this is America and everyone has a right to pursue prosperity and happiness. But I do take umbrage of his characterization of America given all that this country has given me and my family.

I'm not afraid to tell you that life isn't fair. Like all countries, America has its imperfections. But with faith and hard work, you have the freedom in this country to overcome your circumstances and build a better life. I'm proof of it. I made it because America is an exceptional place full of exceptional people. And there are millions more just like me who made it — white, Black, brown and everything in between.

Today, we have a unique opportunity to put forth a model for racial healing and economic prosperity for all. By focusing on the power of personal agency, the importance of strong community values, addressing the father absence crisis and reforming failed federal programs, we will institute real and lasting change.

I'm running for U.S. Congress to bring real-world solutions to Washington, D.C., and put forth a shared vision for America we can all support. I will serve as a beacon of hope and work to unite all Americans over our shared experiences, shared challenges and shared vision for America. I hope you join me.

Kendall A. Qualls is the Republican candidate for Congress in Minnesota's Third Congressional District.