America, This Won't Stop Until We Dismantle the Narrative of Racial Difference!
At a time when so many people of color and our allies are taking to the streets to push for racial and economic justice, I couldn't help but take a moment to pause - not just for George Floyd and his family, but for the tragedy of our repeating the past...over and over...and over....and over... Watching protests over George Floyd's murder and the thousands of others suffering his fate in our cities today, I am reminded that this is also the day in 1921 when an entire community of fathers, mothers, children, lovers, neighbors, coaches, teachers, clergy, aunts and uncles, business owners, nurses, doctors, lawyers and so many others, were senselessly murdered. Almost 100 years to the day of the Tulsa Riots, we are still debating, marching, protesting, and crying over the loss of so many of our loved ones.
Someone once said that the definition of insanity was...doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result. Well, this is classic, textbook insanity... We continue to revisit the most painful racial and social divisions, over and over again.
In the movie The Help, there is a chilling scene when Viola Davis (the first African American woman to achieve the Triple Crown of Acting (Academy Award, Emmy Award and Tony Award) asks a question of a bigoted woman who has created havoc for her and other maids - "AIN'T YOU TIRED"?
We'll I'm asking you, aren't you tired of this cycle!
Want to know the pathway forward?
Bryan Stevenson (author of the book Just Mercy) nails it when he identifies its source - the narrative of racial difference. That narrative, that somehow people of color are not human and not worthy of being treated as such, causes us to continue to be here, at this spot, reliving the same injustices. To move forward, we have to deal with the legacy and tragedy of this narrative and how it has robbed us of the opportunity of solidarity and led some to erroneously take on a world view of white supremacy that is neither true nor worthy of legitimate debate. Stevenson's life work around racial justice, stands on the shoulders of so many social justice activists who understand that this struggle is not just about, cannot be just about, fighting the actions of racist and bigoted men. It must also be about dismantling the narratives that made them believe that they were somehow different than any other human on this planet! Until we get that done, we will repeat this tragedy over....and over...again.
While it is true that the actions taken by officers at the scene of George Floyd's death are to be condemned, we also need to condemn the narrative that makes it possible for those actions to exist! And, to exist with impunity!
And for those of us fighting today for justice for George Floyd, I want our action plan to be very clear - our task is not to fix racist or bigoted people. Our task is to redesign the racist and bigoted systems that make them possible.
Let's solve for this, in earnest this time! Let's dismantle the narrative of racial difference by planting narratives of solidarity - narratives that remind people that:
our fates are intertwined,
our health and wellbeing depends on the health and wellbeing of many who may not even look like us, and
the diversity of our cultures and skin tones is a cause for celebration, not a reason to destroy each other!
Let's be tired of reliving the same issues but not too tired to change the narrative!