Note: I normally try to stay away from things political or otherwise controversial here, but events lately have been so out of whack that I feel the need to say a few things. If this sort of post isn’t your thing, I’ll have a review for you on Friday.
We are broken. Broken as a country, as a people, as humanity. It started a long time ago, I think, but recent months have brought this realization to the forefront of our lives. Let’s start with the COVID-19 pandemic. Never mind the lack of concern on the part of our government when the reality of the pandemic first became known, although that’s a part of this, too. But, now, when we should be growing together and forming solid ranks of fellow humans to stop the spread and death, we see people screaming about not being able to get a haircut. People who refuse to wear a mask because it somehow infringes on their personal freedom if they are asked to try to protect the people around them from getting sick and possibly dying. People who come to “peaceful” protests with loaded guns, threatening those who are trying to do what’s best for everyone. Until we can see past ourselves, we are broken.
More recently, we have seen a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, in response to the horrific and unreasonable death of another black man at the hands of white authorities. And, of course, this is countered from certain perspectives with the question: Don’t all lives matter? Yes, of course, all lives matter. But this is a matter of context. All lives will never matter completely as long as some lives don’t. And the truth, whether you believe it or not, whether you like it or not, whether it makes you uncomfortable or upset, is that not all lives matter. We live in a white society. We think and act as white people. Oh, some are more egregious in their expression of racism, but we all have bits and pieces of what we were taught and believe that show through the cracks. Example: New folks are moving in a few doors down. You look out your window and say: “Oh, they’re black (or Hispanic or whatever).” This may not in any way affect the way you treat them or behave toward them, but flip the skin color. Do you look out at that same moving-in family and say: “Oh, they’re white.” No, you probably don’t. It’s subtle, it may not seem important, but because skin color is the first thing you notice about those not like you, you have classed them as Other, as Different, as Not Me. That does nothing to close the gaps that exist in our society. I am here admitting that, yes, I am just as guilty as the next (white) person of these same sort of subtly racist thoughts. I am trying to be conscious of them when they occur and to teach myself to acknowledge and learn. To try to see just people, blind to skin color, blind to the way they talk or dress. Until we all can do that, we are broken.
But the riots, you say. How does that help anything? I suppose it doesn’t. More violence is rarely the answer to any violence. The thing here is that riots like the ones we are seeing in so many places are born of frustration and anger. Frustration that these injustices have gone on for so long with no end in sight. Anger that so many say they oppose racism and discrimination, and still turn a blind eye to it. Lashing out is, unfortunately, a very human response and that’s what we are seeing. Even Martin Luther King, Jr., who is so often advocated as a peaceful protest believer, understood what makes people turn to violent protest:
“I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society, which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots,” King said in his 1967 “The Other America” speech. “In the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear?” Until we begin to hear, we are broken.
We are a divided people. We are broken apart by race, religion, politics, class, wealth, privilege. In recent times, those differences are beginning to look like chasms that seem uncrossable. We all need to reach out to those most unlike us, those we disagree with most, those whose lives are so different we can’t really relate to them, and offer a hand to help bridge those gaps. Until we can do that and really mean it, we are, and will remain, broken.
Instead of promoting my own books here, I am going to link to a list of books you may want to look at if you want to understand racism as it still exists in the US. Maybe we can all start to learn the things Dr. King alluded to.