It’s Monday morning, but not yet time to go to work. The sun has risen, but we have a few precious hours before we must report.
So drink your morning coffee and awaken. What happened last night?
Where I live the rain fell, and there is now a cool, morning breeze, leaves rustling, birds chirping, the din of traffic in the distance louder than it’s usually been on quarantine mornings.
We look at newspaper web sites and our social media feeds with a hint of dread, not fearing case and updated fatality numbers, but a toll of damage. Damage done to buildings, to bodies, to souls, and we wonder, who wrought this damage?
Outsiders, we are told, strategically placed here by forces we should fear. Their aim is to make us look at bad, whichever side of ‘us’ we are on. Their objective is to sow that fear, panic, distrust, again, from and of whoever we already feared and distrusted.
Whatever damage was wrought last night, and the nights before, do make us feel bad. What has become of our homes, our communities, our perceptions of ourselves?
And the elders remind us, in a voice shockingly calm in its ease and lack of surprise, as this morning’s sun rises, there is unfortunately nothing new under the sun.
What we wake up to this morning has been here all along.
The fear and distrust has coursed through our society’s veins like a virus, although this one we can see.
We can see the killings of unarmed people of color at the hands of authorities and vigilantes. Their names date back days, weeks, months, years, decades.
We can see the statistics of those felled by a coronavirus, and that the people of color have fared worse. Each of those statistics was a person, a life, with family — and they are now gone.
We can see the dirty water and power plants spewing smoke and toxicity into the neighborhoods, playgrounds and homes of the lower class, those in our society without the political and financial clout to prevent their communities from becoming victims of Cancer Alley.
Why does our country have a Cancer Alley at all — and why have we allowed or tolerated anyone to live there?
We can see the response by those meant to protect us, to serve us, created and financially supported by us, their gear, their shields, their weapons, their tactics. Their equipment is military-grade — but worse, so is their attitude.
We can see their guns pointed at journalists and TV cameras. We can see their kicking of a woman on the ground, their pushing of an elderly man with a cane to the ground, their hurling of a woman to the ground, their driving of their vehicles through crowds, their pointing of guns at bystanders on a porch.
All this we can see, like never before, evidence of authoritarian brutality reaped upon the citizenry.
Our national leaders abdicated their responsibility by blinking and turning away at the threat of a virus they knew could wreak havoc and kill.
Our local authorities, on the other hand, the ones with the batons and guns and the political establishment behind them, did not stand idly by, as they could have, but instead decided to fight. But like the virus, they chose to fight us, and have been making this choice for days, weeks, months, years, decades.
There are two ways to categorize our perceptions of police behavior: as symptomatic, or as asymptomatic.
People of color and the lower class see the abuses of police (the killings, the brutality, stop and frisk, biased ticketing practices) as symptomatic: highly visible, their presence known, a threat constantly looming.
Whites and people of privilege, myself included, mostly see the abuses of power asymptomatically, meaning they are not clearly visible or experienced. They can exist without us knowing or being affected.
But the threats are still there. Even if we hide out in our homes, and try not to become victims, the disease is still present, and prevalent, all around us.
Either way, it affects us all.
The scourge of white supremacy is a stain on humanity.
The bigoted mobs of who the president calls ‘very fine people’, people who are deplorable, are in America and have been along. From slavery to Manifest Destiny, from Jim Crow to George Floyd, racism is embedded in the American fabric.
Abuse of power, whether by the mayor, the police chief, a police officer or the president, weakens our cities, our communities, our country. We were already fragile from COVID-19, and we were fragile before that.
I am thankful for the noise of the protests. As painful as it was seeing some of the footage, I applaud those brave enough to go out, be among crowds, make their presence felt, make their physical selves vulnerable so they can express the anger and frustration and put their bodies in the streets to represent how unacceptable and intolerable the status quo from police and our leaders is.
I was unable and unwilling to take that risk.
I don’t feel guilty about that, but it does force me to ask myself, what am I doing to help? What is my role to play? What can I do?
Every person, especially whites and people of privilege, should be asking themselves that today. Because this is not a problem for and of other people. Of outsiders. This is our problem. This is our responsibility to fix.
People of color and the lower class have suffered and continue to suffer in our society. The list of things we need to remedy is long, and can seem overwhelming.
We will not end police brutality today, or this week. We will not strengthen the social safety net today, or this week, nor will affordable, equitable access to health care be granted to everyone in our society today, or this week.
We will not extinguish white supremacy today, or this week, or maybe ever.
But that work continues today, and this week. And beyond.
So, yes, it is again Monday morning. And it is getting closer to being time to go to work.
We have our jobs, those fortunate to be employed in these ridiculously difficult circumstances. And then we have our work.
Maybe the protests will quiet now, because the weekend is over. Maybe they will continue. Maybe the embers will burn through this week…and roar back to life at night, or on the weekends again.
But if there are no protests to attend or participate in or watch or support, there is still work to do.
There are organizations to support. I donated to the United Negro College Fund, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Austin Justice Coalition.
And there are other ways to get involved. I registered for an online event next week sponsored by the Austin Justice Coalition specifically catered to whites to help us better understand what we need to know, what we need to learn, what we can do.
This is no longer a fight just for those who have it worse than I do. This is a fight for all of us. It will take all of us to win. It will take all of us to get a little bit better.
This is more than about being an ally. This is about being a teammate. And also, in its deepest terms, a neighbor.
It’s morning in America, alright. We can see the light of day, and we can see what the light is exposing.
I don’t like what I see. Do you?
It’s time to get to work.
Previously Published on Medium