Saturday, June 13, 2020

Eager for the Revolution

I’m apologizing in advance. This post is about Me, in a time when Me needs to shut up and let others do the talking. But if my voice can add volume to the uproar and support to the weary, here I go.

I’m in my Third Third, and I have been waiting for the revolution since 1968. Or maybe it was 1964 when the three Freedom Riders were killed in Mississippi. I was sure it would happen in 1968 as assassination after assassination shook us to our core. I thought once you get horrified, once you SEE; you fix things.

But with every single new outrage – and we have had lots of outrages since 1964 – I thought, “This is SO HORRIFIC, so INHUMANE, this will be the straw that broke the camel’s back. This will spark the change.”

But it just kept on happening. Last week, I would have just chronicled all my furies, thrown my rage and MAD CAPITALIZATION around, and succumbed to the despair that nothing changes, injustice wins, hope is lost, racism is forever. I wasn’t going to see it end in my lifetime. That’s what I was going to say.

But maybe, maybe, this is a bit different. (Can it be? Can it be?) Maybe, maybe, eyes are opening. (Can it be? Can it be?) Maybe, maybe people are willing to see – can’t avoid seeing? – that racism is poisoning our society. That people of color have had to walk a much harder and more dangerous life. A MUCH harder and way more dangerous life.

When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, America was “appalled” at the poverty exposed. Mostly white police blocked an escape route out for the mostly black refugees; they didn’t want them in their suburb. It took a recent book to expose the exploitation of Henrietta Lacks, an African American woman whose cells were used to develop a polio vaccine, advances in medicine, potential anti-cancer drugs … making lots of money for pharmaceutical companies but her family can’t even afford health insurance. And people are only now noticing that people of color receive unequal health services because they’re over-represented in Covid-19 cases? Only now??? 

Uh, oh. My optimism is precarious; it’s starting to give way. I wake up and tell Tim I’ve had another angry dream. He looks at me, “And that’s a surprise?” I want Martin Luther King’s dream, dammit!

Unarmed Eric Garner can’t breathe in New York in 2014, but unarmed George Floyd still can’t breathe and is murdered in Minneapolis in 2020. In between, there were unarmed Michael Brown and unarmed Freddie Gray and too many others. Can this be any clearer?

But to me, the thing that really shows the ugliness and racism that lurks and poisons is Amy Cooper. A regular white woman who doesn’t want to put her dog on a leash in a park KNOWS that she can call the police and shout “African American man” and get results. She can scare the shit out of him and potentially get him arrested or killed.

Isn’t that just the ugly truth of our society?
In 1964, people died trying to help black Americans vote. In 2020, Republicans decide people should die voting in Wisconsin. In 1965, police broke up a peaceful march in Selma with nightsticks and tear gas. In 2020, police tear-gassed a peaceful protest in Washington, D.C. so the President could get a photo op with a Bible in front of a church. In our third thirds, we’ve witnessed the sheer tenacity of injustice. It’s the story of our lives.

Can I even face getting my hopes up again?

White men with automatic rifles stand in front of the Michigan state Capitol; no police break up their protest. Yet African American protesters carrying signs and “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!” get tear-gassed. Journalists with visible microphones and cameras are deliberately attacked.

No wonder people are angry! I’ve been waiting decades to see justice done, to see racism faced, to see privilege acknowledged, to see wrongs righted … and I haven’t even been paying that price. A whole host of our population has been waiting – and paying the price – for hundreds of years. I’m angry that this is the world we’re giving our children.

This America that we value is just a popular and enduring myth. It’s only aspirational until – finally – we face ourselves and our institutions and make it a reality. Is this the time? Is it finally NOW? Finally? In our lifetimes?

We have work to do.

Sharing Button