I am despairing today. I can’t find my way to the stories and connections of those who carry their humanity not as a shield, but as a skin, as permanent and engrained as the colour of one’s eyes, a way of living so entrenched in the soul that reaction to assaults against humanity are “immediate and certain”.
When we have a name for an abhorrent act then that act is not a mistake, it is not corrected by an apology, but rather, it is a disease embedded in society’s DNA. And I can’t stop the “why” that goes around and around in my psyche, left unanswered in my head, in my heart, in every cell of me.
Why would we ever feel another human soul is less worthy than our “self”? Why do we assume the inherent guilt of another because of the colour of skin?
Why would we ever stand by and watch someone with a badge take another’s life without feeling that assault personally, our reaction “immediate and certain”?
Why would we cast a vote in favour of someone who reeks of misogyny and narcissism and of a total disregard for integrity and honesty and who speaks of violence as an automatic solution, who calls for dominance, who incites and breeds racism, whose behaviour is called childish, an insult to children, and an excuse, as if there were any excuse for such behaviour?
Why would we make political promises to those who are waiting and have waited for the basic equal human rights, that should come with a guarantee in this country, to a quality education and potable water, and yet break those promises with unconscionable ease? Why do we disregard gender-based violence that leads to attacks on women that are categorized as “massive” and “worst” in Canadian history and claim this must never happen again, yet we take no steps to ensure that proclamation? Why does profit and wealth supersede all other measures of success? Why would we create “for profit” care for elders, for seniors whose respectful treatment should be “immediate and certain” but instead they live in deplorable conditions, away from watchful eyes, so easily forgotten and ignored? Why are we puzzled when desperation leads to acts of civil disobedience when peaceful measures fall on deaf ears and we look the other way? Why do we point to the treachery in other parts of the world with more judgment than we perceive the treachery within our own borders? Why do children have to learn behaviours to survive, to not get shot, to not get arrested when breaking no rules, because of the colour of their skin? Why are children being told not to imagine they can be anything they dream about, because the rules are different for them? Why does whom we choose to love, leave us open to violence and judgment? Why is the list of these wrongs merely a scratching at the surface?
We must feel outrage and even despair, for it is that pain that converts our outrage and despair into difficult but constructive conversations, converts our hopelessness into action. It is that despair that has us explain to our children what is happening and to check our own closets to ensure we haven’t stored prejudice deep in the corners, out of sight.
If we are tempted to use the word “but” after we speak of Mr. Floyd’s murder or after another act of racism from a very long list of despicable acts that occur on a regular basis, then we have some personal work to do ourselves.
If when telling a story, we automatically include a descriptor of race, as though that is an essential ingredient in the telling, then we have some personal work to do ourselves.
I need to take off the blinders. I need to raise my head and look around and be witness to the wrongs that are happening in a society in which I consider myself a member and I absolutely must become part of the solution. Then, and only then, will I find comfort. We are, as James Baldwin so aptly stated, “each other’s only hope.”