It’s been a rough few months for America. On top of the pandemic, which has disproportionately affected people of color, we’ve seen yet another surge of violence against blacks, including at the hand of police brutality. It’s so overwhelmingly sad, incomprehensible, and distressing. I feel insignificant in the struggle to fight for what is right.
Most days, there’s a song playing in my head. My inner soundtrack is my brain’s way of helping me deal with life. All weekend, I heard four songs consistently. I’ll begin by quoting the first:
“Well, darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable. And lightness has a call that’s hard to hear. I wrap my fear around me like a blanket. I’ve sailed my ship of safety ‘till I sank it. I’m crawling on your shores.”The Indigo Girls, Closer to Fine
While I normally think about this part of this song in relation to struggles with depression, I hear these words in a different way. The darkness is injustice. The light is hope. The darkness has always been here. And white people have benefited from this, whether we realize that or not. If you pay attention, the privilege will smack you in the face. If we accept the safety of the status quo, we are giving in to apathy, and apathy wins. Apathy allows the darkness to fester. And, thus, we are complicit in its spread.
I feel a tremendous amount of guilt about this. And I’ve wrapped myself in that guilt and fear of inadequacy in bringing light to the darkness. And now I’m here to listen. But the less we speak, whether it’s sticking up for Black neighbors when we see injustice or staying home and not voting, the more that darkness invades our society. The more elusive that light becomes.
And now, after our leader essentially declared that he has the right to invoke martial law after years of stoking division in our country, our democracy seemingly hangs by a thread. Our world is now even darker. And most of this post was written before #blackouttuesday. I fear some of us may actually find ourselves in the position to seek refuge if we become a military state. Now is not the time to sit back and do nothing.
“Now apathy is happy that it won without a fight.”The Housemartins, Think For a Minute
Apathy is a funny thing. We think if we hide from doing the right thing, it doesn’t affect us. Our inaction is also an action. Not speaking up for what is just opens up more opportunities for injustice. It spreads. Like a virus.
“I said, Hey! Old man! How can you stand to think that way? Did you really think about it before you made the rules? He said, ‘Shut up. That’s just the way it is. Some things will never change.’”Bruce Hornsby and the Range, The Way It Is
It’s time for things to change. I’m not exactly sure how to make change happen, but I have allies who are more informed than me on how to invoke transformation. I will listen to them. There is a plethora of information available to educate ourselves about systemic racism to help us develop empathy. We can reach out to our elected officials in support of true equality. I am confident that we will figure this out.
I’ve started with phone calls to my lawmakers. I’ve read books to educate myself and develop my empathy toward people not like me. I’ve reached out to my friends of color to check on them. I will continue to vote. It’s not enough, but it’s a beginning.
“In the end, only kindness matters.”Jewel, Hands
The road to real progress will be long, but it will be worth it. We’ve had protests for racial equality before, but it feels different this time. Lots of my friends feel the same way. We need to make sure we don’t give in to apathy again. We need a new normal, not the status quo. I want my kids to enjoy a much different world than we have right now. A world where kindness really matters and where everyone feels safe and equal. This is not politics. This is human decency. Let’s not leave all the work for them.
Three of my favorite books about racial injustice that I’ve read so far are Born a Crime by Trevor Noah, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. Today, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and the Mayor of the City of Richmond Levar Stoney declared that the confederate statues that line Monument Avenue will be removed. This is remarkable progress for what was once the Capital of the Confederacy. What was once thought impossible is, indeed, possible. As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.
*Updating to add that several Confederate statues have now officially been removed from Monument Avenue in Richmond. The first to go was Stonewall Jackson.*