This past week I intended to parade more photos of blocked finished objects on the blog. Instead, I spent the week mourning the deaths of citizens and police officers. I’ve had to take a break from Facebook and only visit in short periods, preferring the eye candy of Instagram, after the first three days or so of responses.
My take on all of this is, America, We Need To Talk. Seriously. We need a literal or figurative Coming To Jesus about this issue of racial violence perpetrated by the State, and the perceived need for retaliation.
Can we acknowledge that despite our country being birthed in a spirit of Some Animals Are Created More Equal Than Others (according to George Orwell), the time has come to move past this premise? Can we acknowledge that many of the current laws, law enforcement cultural conditioning and assumptions were birthed in a time when slavery was not long past and women may or may not have yet won the vote? These assumptions are outdated, but they survive.
Can we acknowledge that we as a society are divided and wounded, and that it will take deep cuts to reach the poison, but that this is the only way to heal?
If we cannot acknowledge, and believe it when we say it, that we do not yet live in a post-racial society, that the echoes of a history of slavery still reverberate, that people are still afraid, which is irrational, so difficult to counter, and yet unwarranted, then we cannot move forward. If we cannot look at the cold, hard, facts and say This is Unjust: the disproportionate police stops, frisks, imprisonments, and deaths of people of color; if we cannot know and understand that laws governing drug arrests and sentencing were born out of racial stereotypes and perceived threat to white women (property of white men), and stand up and say This is Unjust; then we are destined to fail as a society. We are destined to fail to heal, fail to understand, fail to excise the poison, and fail to thrive.
I am tired on behalf of all of us that have ever felt the need to protect the feelings of someone more privileged in society, be it based on gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic class, or wielding of financial and political power. I am tired of protecting the privilege of those that have always had more power. I am thankful for white male allies that do not accept the current patriarchy as the only possible paradigm. But I am also tired of the surprise each time some horrific event transpires (or some event that turns into three – or more – awful national events in one week) and the cycle of acceptance and exhaustion that leads us to ultimately tune out and attempt to move on. I’m tired of the nay-sayers of white fragility that have chosen not to develop the compassion necessary to be shocked when they learn of others’ experiences, and due to discomfort or perceived threat choose instead to silence the other.
The fact is, nothing has truly changed if we only react with a sad-face on Facebook. The most important communications I’ve seen this past week have been the lists of concrete actions we can take to change the manner in which law enforcement is implemented in our local communities.
And – we need to have more discussions about the underpinnings of our laws. Is it still assumed that black men consume coke and, on it, are a threat to white women (property of white men)? Is it assumed that Mexican men consume an outsized quantity of marijuana and (see last sentence)? Is the law still on the books in the state of Ohio, for example, that assumes women are the property of some male family member by categorizing rape under property law and damaged goods? Is it still legal in Texas for a man to rape his wife?
We need to talk about colonialism. We need to talk about slavery. We cannot look at the current state of our society, from either the perspective of the minority or that of the privileged, and say this has not influenced our thinking, our behavior, the very assumptions upon which our laws are built. We are not “colorblind.” We are not “post-racial.” We need to decide whether we care about our neighbors, about violence in our communities, about what it means to continue to tacitly permit extrajudicial beatings and killings in a country whose privileged masses collectively think we are the greatest democracy in the world.
When we hear the slogan, “Make America Great Again,” it should not engender a vision of the antebellum South in which white men had the weapons and wielded them over their women, children, and slaves. It ought to be a phrase that begs a vision of a freedom to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all, as it says in our Declaration of Independence. We ought to assume at this stage that “all men” refers to all humans, and reassert that the purpose of government is to protect our “unalienable rights.” Let us recommit to that ideal, while understanding that the road is long, the night dark, the struggle has not ended, but that so long as any of us is in virtual or actual shackles, none of us is truly free or safe.