We’ve reached some grim milestones recently. We’ve seen video documenting the murders of not one, but two of our African-American brothers. And we’ve crossed the threshold of 100,000 dead to a pandemic that holds the world in its grip.
Across America we see images and hear audio of not only these horrible events, but also the loud voices of those who cast it all aside. Who feel that protective masks are a symbol of oppression as they gather in close quarters to celebrate the holiday as if the worldwide disease didn’t exist. In a time where we should all, as a nation, be banding together for our common survival. This moment is hijacked by those who would rather us wallow in our differences.
When I speak with friends and acquaintances who live overseas, they ask me the same question:
“What is going on over there?”
And the answer is simple – our nation’s darkness is being exposed.
Controlling The Message
The promise of America has always been that we are the Shining City on the Hill. The place where all people venture to for the promise of freedom and equality. And while our history of racism and oppression has always been known. We’ve been great about controlling the message.
Racism has been portrayed as something that mostly exists in the southern states. Perpetuated by ill-educated, poor whites who belong to extremist groups or who shout racist sayings out loud that no “normal” person would ever dare think or say. But through media, along with an accepted collective bias, we’ve perpetuated stereotypes that have allowed mass oppression to appear to only affect a small group of people. People whose unfortunate lives were portrayed of being solely shaped by choices of their own.
Even the targets of the oppression can succumb to this messaging. We hear often how black men need to “pick themselves up by their bootstraps” or “stop watching Sportscenter.” And I’ve heard many a person of color admit (including myself) to sometimes crossing the street when seeing a black man walking towards them in the dark.
The messaging had us believing that we were on our way to the promised land. That oppression was over. And while true progress was being made, we took our eyes off of those who regarded this as a threat to their power and self-worth. And they were about to make themselves heard loud and clear.
The Rising Tide
Odds are, if you’re a person of non-European ancestry you’ve known the true, subtle face of racism. We’ve all known people that we talk to frequently, maybe even on a daily basis, that probably harbor some sentiments of prejudice. But there was a social contract that those feelings would not be spoken out loud for fear of shame. We suspected that “Dan from accounting” was kind an angry guy (no shade to any accountants reading this). But we didn’t expect to see him at the White Separatist Rally and then put up pictures on his Facebook page.
What has been disconcerting to witness the past few years is how that shame has gone by the wayside. How we’ve become used to hearing prejudiced views, that were once whispered, now be shouted out loud. And amidst all this darkness, it’s easy to feel lost and in despair.
Coming to the Light
But we should keep in mind that this documentation could be our saving grace. But now that these wounds have been uncovered. We now have the opportunity to do something about it. These tragedies are part of the building of evidence for the case to begin Changing America. There are no more places to hide the dirt and grime of our institutions of oppression.
The truth is simple – America is not looking very good right now. Taking a step back, we are giving off the impression of a loud, arrogant, mean and petulant child that is touching at hot stove and crying about the heat. A wound has been created and we, along with the entire world, get to stare at it. The nation can no longer hide our darkness or blame on a select few. Our problems are part of the very foundation of this nation.
Where We Go
Right now we’re in a combined state of rage, disbelief and despair. These are all natural emotions to have and we should take a moment to feel them. To embrace what they’re trying to tell each of us:
That we have to do something.
It’s moments like these where we can take stock of where we are and how we can better contribute to the world we want to see. For every force outside of our sphere of control, there are smaller ones that are. And by changing those small things around us, we can start to trickle the effect upwards.
What we have now is an opportunity to begin fixing the wound. And rejoin our seat at the grown-ups table.