There are wounds, historical and societal, racist in nature, that seem too big to talk about, to heal, something like banks being too big to fail. Only they’re not. Neither the banks, nor the yet-to-be-healed wounds of racism. At some point we have to talk about them, or else remain at the mercy of a cruel and endless loop of history repeating itself, again and again. The conversation needs to be national, and local. We need to call for it.
I know. We’d rather wash dishes, vacuum, take a nap, anything, really almost anything rather than, in the words of Jon Stewart, “… peer into the abyss of the depraved violence that we do to each other in the nexus of a just gaping racial wound that will not heal, yet we pretend doesn’t exist.”
Charleston was the eye of the “perfect storm”. The coming together of historically based racism, in its own under-challenged endless loop and the endless looping of gun proliferation, bought and paid for by the gun industry and the NRA. A handy excuse is to blame the lone, “mentally ill” shooter, as if this were a “one off”. As if the deranged person did not state his own clearly racist motivations for the murders, his intention to start a “race war”. As if he hadn’t been given a gun for his birthday. As if the Confederate flag isn’t flying on South Carolina’s state capitol grounds, symbolizing the South’s historically racist collective unconsciousness. As if Jim Crow laws (our own system of apartheid) didn’t exist from 1890-1965. As if Black men were not currently almost 50% of the U.S. prison system’s population. http://www.naacp.org/pages/criminal-justice-fact-sheet As if we, with our own American eyes, weren’t seeing video after video of police on Black violence.
I’m still feeling some of the intense grief, disbelief, outrage at what happened in Charleston. It’s been not quite four full days since Wednesday night. I feel lifted up by a sense of awe and respect for the family members of the victims who, in the very midst of their most profound grief, expressed their commitment to non-violence, to responding to hate with love, to expressing their forgiveness. One can only imagine the greatness of such a church, such a pastor, such a congregation.
We, Americans, tend to feel things intensely, experience a profound sense of outrage at injustice, grieve with, or for, victims, then move on. Because there are so many new stories, new challenges, new distractions, we never quite “land” to fully look, as Stewart suggested. To see the lay of the land, to hold our leaders (and ourselves) truly accountable, to take responsibility for helping to make change.
Before this moment of shared American outrage and grief passes, into the ether of history, into the mists of on-going mis-understandings, into the endless looping of racism and gun violence, before that…. Perhaps we could take one more moment to think of something we can do today, or this week, or next , a conversation we can hold, a letter we can write, some way that we can support the ongoing struggle to someday bring racism and gun violence to an end.
As Rumi said, “You must ask for what you really want. Don’t go back to sleep.” Think of Malala Yusafzai, still asking/fighting for education for girls. Gabby Giffords, still fighting against gun violence. Dare to look into the abyss. There is the beauty of great leaders — Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Clementa Pinckney — as well as the sorrow.
In case you haven’t seen these articles below, I’m including links to them, and Jon Stewart’s video, all of which helped me “peer into the abyss”, understand a little better, and participate a little more. With so many loving and hopeful thoughts for this better world we all want.