Let’s lay bare the obvious items about our current state with the conversation around racism. To begin with, we should admit that more of our nation family are entering into these conversations, for better or worse. Social media has provided a means of connection, a platform, and sounding board and people are struggling daily to make sense of their own, and their family’s view of things around racism. As we have avoided, consistently, to have any developed dialogue around race for much of our nation’s existence, these coltish struggling steps are to be expected, but are no excuse for behaving badly in these talks.
Next, let’s be clear about what those in the supposed fore of the conversation are saying, unequivocally. There is no anti-military/veteran stance among those who are fighting injustice. It has never been suggested, supported or claimed. There is no anti-police stance among those fighting injustice. There is an ongoing fight to develop and center policing that focuses on the needs of vulnerable communities. Specifically, policing which leads to the deaths of citizens, consistently, is not sound policing. Communities and police forces should want to address this. There is no anti-American stance among social justice groups, orgs and citizens. There is a desire to address the injustice, racism, oppression, and hate experienced by vulnerable (read Black, queer, people of color, Native Americans…) communities, leading our nation and our nation family away from these practices.
What happens, literally every time anyone raises the issue of injustice and its traumatic effect in the lives of African-Americans, is there emerges a counter-chorus. One claiming that we are post racial, that racism is a myth, and these voices are often mingled among those who use hate speak to intimidate those who are seeking social justice. The irony should be lost on none of us. Loud crashing sounds telling us that racism doesn’t exist, while we experience race hatred in close proximity.
This approach reminds me of the proverbial red herring in the midst of the investigation, born largely of fear, anxiety, and ultimately, guilt. We have been telling our activist young, social justice warriors, and concerned citizens that while we agree there is injustice we disagree with them blocking traffic, kneeling during the national anthem, raising these issues in schools, or having the conversations around the dinner table. These, we say, are not the right times and/or places, to have these exchanges.
We are afraid of these confrontations, our behavior suggests. And while we point out the problem of time and place, our silence on providing the appropriate time and place for these, speaks volumes. The message however, is clear. There will never be a good time for those who feel unprepared. Here will always be the desire to escape and blame those who make them think and feel empathy toward the oppressed. In our context, the ongoing oppression of the African-American community, while more subtle now, tinged with condescension, has taken center stage in our lives, and should.
There would never be a time and place for many of our nation family. They would never acknowledge that a saying like “Back Lives Matter” is about us as a whole valuing Black lives, as they aren’t given equal value, not about diminishing the value of all life. The vehement defensiveness at the assertion of Black personhood speaks volumes about where we are.
That we still desire to make conversations around the emotional environment we create for LGBTQ members of our family, that we still liberally embrace patriarchy while we claim to want equality for women, that we can’t manage to center a conversation about gun control on its sweeping benefits … all of it speaks to our abject fear and anxiety of the changes that need to come.
This time, this difficult growth, these hard conversations, these fears and hurts, unfortunately all had to happen. They are the new skin that we are struggling to grow as a nation family. We need to talk about where we are, as many more of us are prepared to do so, and even those who don’t feel prepared need to know that the dialogue is in the ether. They need to know that there are those among us who are here for that, and here for them, and who believe that the fear, not the inactivity, but the real human emotions, are okay.
It isn’t necessary to be a social justice warrior to bring about change. It is however, necessary that we be more than simply decent people. Decent people simply want to live their lives and do no harm to others. Decent people may know what is happening to the vulnerable a small but vast world away, right where they are, but choose to do little, or think little, about that reality. It is well pas time that we made being Good the goal. That we engage our neighbors, and see what we might do to improve their human condition whether by talking, voting, marching, crying with, or caring for.
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