It feels like déjà vu all over again!
Once again America finds itself in the midst of racial turmoil.
To be honest, the turmoil isn’t new...it just surfaces from time to time during highly profiled acts of violence and highly visible court cases. It’s always there.
I don’t typically comment on current events in my article, however, due to the viral nature of the story of the jury’s decision, it seemed negligent to not weigh in on the discussion and offer a personal reflection.
It is so hard to move ahead after any dispute without fully exhausting the issue. When couples, co-workers, neighbors or relatives squabble, mediators usually attempt to facilitate reconciliation by getting it all out on the table. This method is somewhat problematic with race relations for several reasons: The pain is typically so deep; there is a tremendous amount of denial; people are afraid they’re going to be called the “R” word (racist) that they become extremely defensive; or, an offended person exaggerates and resorts to phrases like “White people always...,” or “White people never...,” or, “All White people..,” which causes many people to shut down and stop engaging that individual.
So, things get discussed but not resolved. Things get kicked around and retweeted and reposted until it’s no longer front-page news only to resurface with the vengeance the next time a racially charged event hits the media waves. It’s America’s old injury that never gets healed. America hobbles a bit thinking the injury is better until the next aggravation. Honestly speaking, I don’t know what is more disappointing to America: the fact of the re-injury or the fact that the injury really exists in the first place.
Several things have been troubling to me the past few days in the wake of Zimmerman’s acquittal:
• The anonymity of social media has empowered people to make very hurtful and racist comments.
• Many Whites, based upon online comments, misunderstand the aggregate nature of African American's dismay over the verdict. African Americans don’t know Trayvon. He represents to them, however, their own young, unsuspecting sons, grandsons, and nephews who can be legally gunned down while unarmed. This isn’t merely about race for us, it is about safety and legality of being gunned down.
• Many Whites, based upon online comments, think that African Americans’ outrage with this particular verdict somehow indemnifies the African American perpetrators of Black-on-Black crimes. Those African American perpetrators, once identified, are prosecuted! We are mortified over those deaths as well, however, justice is served once the assailants have been identified.
• The rise of “color-blindness” language has resurfaced again. (Sigh)
• As many “nice and safe” African Americans take to Twitter and FaceBook (and Madison Times) with their insights and frustrations, many of our White friends are wondering (based upon online comments) if we have lumped them into the White “melting pot” as we express our issues with the system or with the “man.” They want to know if we now see them as the “man” also.
• Local churches have not structured themselves or organized communities like they used to in the ‘50s and ‘60s, so it is difficult for our communities to know where to turn for direction, inspiration, or leadership as we rally against such instances of blatant insensitivity and carelessness.
Although people want to hold hands and sing Kumbaya during these divisive times, it is real difficult. We need to sing Kumbaya during peaceful times so that it is easier to maintain the bridges we built rather than attempting to build bridges under duress. Race relations takes work. It is not an intellectual exercise. It is not an experiment. It is not a sprint, but a marathon. It is a biblical mandate for believers and a universal need for the entire planet. Race relations should ideally begin within trusted cross-cultural relationships where individuals are able to relate to things they have in common first before they begin exploring all the blatant differences that can potentially divide us. These highly volatile moments can’t tempt us to remove ourselves from this discussion or the struggle. African Americans can’t afford to check out due to stress or emotional exhaustion. Whites can’t afford to minimize our pain; part of being a member of a team is understanding why a team member is injured rather than assuming they’re faking an injury. If any White American believes that racial injustice or racial profiling are non-existent in this country, they probably don’t have a close African American friend or has not fully listened to an African American while they told of their racial experiences.
It is in moments like these that we must commit ourselves even more to understanding each other and banding together. Because we have not built strong enough bridges to other cultures we tend to find solace with others who think and look like us when racial tensions flare up. Although I am angry, upset, and disheartened over recent issues, I am still interested in building bridges to other cultures. I have a right...and reason...to be angry; but that shouldn’t marginalize me or other angry African Americans. That anger must motivate me to mobilize and organize against injustice on a local level. White friends shouldn’t seek to squelch the anger of African American friends, but rather understand it and its source.
Social media is a great place for 140-character sound bytes, however, once we’ve pressed the send button we need to create real change in a real world. We cannot hide our cowardice nor our anger behind an avatar or handle. We are either a part of the solution or a part of the problem. It’s time for personal responsibility for this aggregate problem of racial and social injustice in our society.
The revolution will not be tweeted. We must all act!