Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Unless And Until: Baltimore
Unless and until all lives matter as more than a soundbite and a hashtag...
Unless and until we are so sickened by the site of assault of any kind...
Unless and until equal rights are more than a campaign slogan...
Unless and until everyone has a voice...
Unless and until it stops being, "Would you look at those people..."
Nothing will change. When someone sets a senior center on fire and burns and loots their own neighborhood, businesses owned by people they know, they feel they have nothing to lose. They are disenfranchised to the point that they don't feel like they even live in the same country that they see on TV.
Two blocks from the looting last night are million dollar homes.
Police set up in front of Camden Yards but let rioters destroy their own neighborhoods.
People of all races were dragged out of cars and beaten.
The mayor was silent for five hours, appearing only to look beaten herself and call the rioters thugs.
Please don't misunderstand: I cannot condone anything that happened last night. But my endorsement or the lack thereof is not the point.
People keep quoting MLK, to wit: "A riot is the language when people don't feel heard" (paraphrasing).
But it's more than that. Before they can open their mouths, rioters don't even feel seen. It's The Invisible Man all over again. It's black men disappearing. It's an entire race of people excommunicated from the business of life by the color of their skin. Before we judge the actions of a few (and it was only a few, in relative terms) imagine what you would do if everyday you were told you were inferior and not worth anything, both implicitly and explicitly. Chances are good you can't begin to imagine it. If you are reading this blog (and even as I am writing this blog), you have privilege that is so ingrained it doesn't even feel like privilege. It just is.
Unless and until we can pretend to put ourselves in the shoes of others for just a moment to imagine that they love their children just as much as we do...
Unless and until we are committed to the success of everyone, not as a handout, not as a hand up, but as a journey that we take side-by-side...
Unless and until we are as invested in the future of the whole country, not just a select few...
Nothing will change.
It's not a conservative vs. liberal thing. It's not Christians vs. Muslims. Or us vs. them. It is us vs. our own humanity. Are we humans? Are we separated from the animals by our compassion and ability to reason? Can we not see that this is an issue that goes beyond throwing money at a problem?
Buying a house on a block of abandoned rowhouses is not the solution.
More testing in school is not the solution.
More death and violence is not the solution.
The solution requires nothing less than a cultural shift in attitude on both sides. It almost requires a do-over, a wiping of the slate. When you burn something down, you can live in the ashes, assemble a crude structure to keep the rain off but that will probably fall down again, or build something to last.
Unless and until we get to the core, address the institutionalized nature of deeply held prejudice and remedy the wrongs on both sides, our flimsy structure will come crashing down around our ears. Maybe not in a year or five years or ten years, but maybe today. Or tonight.
We are not these riots. Are we?