To navigate the mine-field of rage over racism we have to tread carefully
Not in a comfortable zone
Many of us are strolling through mine-fields these days.
To reach a fair and honest November election that ensures civil society, means watching our progress with alertness and extreme caution. To create a beloved community requires that we enlist the former racists to become anti-racists, instead.
No one has said that it is not a big ask.
In the greater hierarchy, it is just a small minority, who don’t want change. We should not forget this. The current explosion in the streets over race and justice was inevitable. Indifference to the conflicts, especially on the part of most people just too busy, and too uninformed, to notice, has shifted now to moral majority outrage over social injustice.
After many of us have effectively expressed our exhaled indignity with a collective: “It’s about ______ time”, we have work to do.
The biggest challenge remaining is whether leadership will read the room, read the writing on the wall, and read the majority will of we the people.
With all the extra time during pandemic lockdown, many people got a tiny taste of deprivation, injustice, and limited movement. They also had more time to witness the news. More than one item highlighted in the news was the horrific murder of people confronted by a militaristic police force. Add to that, the ongoing and unrelenting efforts of ‘social justice warriors’ who for years — if not decades, or centuries — tirelessly continue to work to expose all the injustice systemic in our daily lives.
Comfort the afflicted
We have to actively seek out ways to support, and join, those on the front lines. Yet too often, we are too uncomfortable to even face the conversation.
We owe these people our gratitude. Too much, ink, I believe, has gone into criticizing some of their minor disagreements and divisions, and not enough credit to the real efforts, and contributions that work has provided.
Take the current political climate, for example. On one side ‘color-blind’ politicians paint all protestors as a dangerous mob. But look past the media lens that is focused, always, on sensational stories of violence, and you will see the far greater majority of protesters are peaceful, unarmed citizens. Young, old, families, of all hues, are supporting justice.
We are out in force, exercising our voice, and demanding change.
On the lowest rung of demands is that “police stop killing people.” On the highest rung to be attained is “equality of opportunity, healthcare, education, work, and housing” Yet, to hear some descriptions of clashes between protestors and police, you would think a mindless, looting rabble was out just to wreak havoc, and terrify locals.
The trouble is, we are the locals. We, having been either terrorized by the system, or simply appalled at it, are at this point overwhelmingly advocating for a better system.
Though we are not going to be very comfortable talking out these difficult issues, the work is necessary.
In defense of defensiveness
There is rage in a lot of writing we are reading these days. I remain eager to hear all these long- repressed voices. Even when the white, privileged woman side of me feels some defensiveness, I understand that those insistent upon closing their ears, eyes, and minds gain nothing.
With that, let’s examine all the “true” defensive arguments.
It is true that all lives matter, but the point here is that Black lives are being taken, and/or affected disproportionately. It is true that most of us, or even our ancestors, did not own slaves. But the inequities born of that legacy have consequences of a less even society. It is true that using our tax dollars (or better yet, rapacious profiteers’ ill-gotten dollars) for reparations does nothing to make the dead slavers pay their due. It is also true that making no effort to address inequity just simmers the rage beneath it. It is true that most of us, nor our progenitors, never lived in the old south. True enough that many ancestors fought for preservation of the union, not the preservation of slavery. Yet, even so, up until 2020, most citizens remained silent about injustice, ensuring systemic racism thrived.
It’s true that not all of our ancestors benefitted from inequity. Your family of origin (mine from Canada) may feel unfairly targeted to pay up. Also, true: indigenous people, and the planet itself, has suffered by exploitative, and oppressive tactics employed by the elite to maintain an unfair status quo. It is true that all women were once owned as property, often raped, often murdered, and deprived of rights. But it is also true that this is a useless whataboutery that distracts from a long, slow march toward justice that recognizes women of color are historically treated even worse than white women. It’s true that Thomas Jefferson and George Washington and all our minority white and patriarchal, founding fathers believed in high ideals. It is also true that murder, rape, theft, and enslavement was left for US, today, to address and repair, not our founders.
We, the people, are the founders of our new nation.
To all the naysayers out there ready to point out that “Life is unfair”, let that sink in. Yes, life is unfair. That is why that it is up to every heart and mind to strive for addressing that continuing unfairness.
Most of all, it is true that defensiveness closes minds and hearts. We have to fight for non-defensiveness and for true reconciliation.
Attitudes set in stone are smashing into rubble
Those statues crashing down all over the world? Think of their dismantling as an easier, less painful way to take down the old, wealthier, white, powerful, male oppressors. It is easier — is it not — to see them fall, rather than to see the actual heads of autocrats fall into baskets from a guillotine’s blade? We’ve already been through that thorough mess that starts with idealism and ends with isolation of a would-be emperor confined to an island. This was only after total mayhem, murder and mourning of millions.
Let the statues fall, as symbolic of an enlightened age. Let them fall, rather than have your cities burn and your citizens ignite civil war in the streets, where if unleashed, true chaos, blood, despair and loss could do a lot more damage. Let them fall, to be replaced by new symbols of egalitarianism, or just a healthy, functioning society where the true heroes honored are more representative of a fuller, richer history.
Think of it this way, would you rather face the rubble, or the rabble?
This is not an idle threat: “Such a nice civilization, hate to see anything bad happen to it.” No. Unlike a mafia warning, the destruction of many an empire fell as a natural consequence of the elite not facing up to the reality that the tyrannized and traumatized simply couldn’t stand you anymore. These events, well recorded in the historical record, reflect that it is not a coordinated, or organized army that upsets the standing order, but a slow rot and erosion, punctuated by incendiary explosions — little and large — in social unrest.
As it turns out, no social order is set in stone. It just feels like it is, until the tumult of voices and actions of a few persuade the many that this era has run its course. It’s time to move on.
It’s time for BIPOC, people of every sex and gender, of every faith, of every nation, of every body type, of every age, and of every income to achieve justice.
What each of us share, and will never lose, is an undying determination to achieve the equality that will keep the fight going for as long as it takes. There is no common sense or ‘common good’ argument to alter it.
There is no defense to be made that could ever change this.