One of the most striking things about the images of Black Lives Matter protests is the number of white people in the crowds. In every city in the country and all over the world, white people are marching and protesting alongside Black people: they’re holding Black Lives Matter signs, wearing I Can’t Breathe t-shirts, covering their faces with Stop Killing Black People masks. And they’re out there with the same passion and urgency as the Black community.
I think it’s this unique quality, even more than the intensity and the continuing duration of the protests, that seems to give this moment a different feeling than recent BLM protests or previous cries for racial justice in America. I’m not the only one who’s noticed that this time feels different. And I think that this unfamiliar thing we’re feeling is hope.
The NFL has issued a statement saying it was wrong to censure players who protested police violence. “We, the NFL, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest.”
Well, better late than never, I suppose. And I suppose the protests are having at least some small part of their desired effect if they are causing individuals and organizations to re-think their actions, their words, and their beliefs. It wasn’t a spontaneous awakening. The NFL’s statement came as a response to a video made by NFL players about racial inequity and asking the NFL to publicly make the statement that they were wrong, and that Black lives matter. But racial inequity is deeply ingrained in our national zeitgeist and it isn’t going to disappear overnight. So any steps in the direction of awareness and growth, even small ones, should be welcomed for what they are. For now, I’m going to set aside the sarcasm and the skepticism and just say: “Good on you, NFL.” For now.
Several years ago, when Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the playing of the national anthem at the start of NFL games, he did so in protest against the mass incarceration of and the police brutality against African-Americans. Some other (mostly, but not exclusively, African-American) players began to kneel too. And America lost its collective mind. They called these peaceful protests “treason” and said that they “disrespected our flag and our troops.” Colin Kaepernick’s football career was over. Donald Trump called for protesters to be fired (for exercising their First Amendment rights). Vice President Mike Pence walked out of a game when players knelt. Conservatives called for a boycott of the games. And the NFL threatened to fine players who knelt and said that they could only do so in the locker rooms, but not on the field.
[January 29, 2020: While watching the sham of an Impeachment Trial today, I was reminded of this post which I originally wrote in 2016, shortly after the election. Sadly, I realized that we are now living in my nightmare scenario.]
I’ve been told that a good way to help with anxiety is to identify in detail the thing you are most concerned will happen. This is the Worst-Case Scenario approach, and the theory is that sometimes specifically identifying what we fear can help us realize that our anxiety may be unfounded. So I challenged myself to name the thing that I am most afraid of regarding a Trump Presidency.
All of the “defeats” that we have been subjected to over the last two years, that have left us so deflated and demoralized, are not defeats at all. They are signposts along the way to our better future. They are there to energize us, and more than that, to test our resolve:
Do we really believe in our cause? Or is it just so many empty words?
Are we whiners who expect that everything will go our way, and when it does not we throw up our hands in defeat? Or are we willing to get our hands dirty and do the hard work necessary to create the future that we believe in?
Do we wallow in defeat and demoralization while everything wastes away at the hands of a small group of people who will walk all over our rights and our dignity and take it away from us? Or do we fight back?
Do we really believe in the promise of our country? That all of us are created equal. That hard work will be rewarded fairly. That we can leave a better world for our children. That ours is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Because right now — at this moment — we are engaged in the great test of our generation: can the promise of this country endure?
We have been sitting here pining for someone to step up, waiting for someone to emerge and show us the way. We have been desperate for a leader so we can follow them to the promised land. But we don’t need a leader to follow: we already know the way. We can join hands and walk there together.
There is a great task ahead of us. And we will take increased devotion to our cause from the defeats we have suffered. But we will not be demoralized. We will not be defeated. We will not let others steal our hope. We will not watch our country crumble. We will steel ourselves for the fight ahead. And we will succeed.
Once again, I was pondering the question of why people don’t vote. And suddenly it occurred to me that people equate voting with that other thing that we all hate: tests. I bet they look at that ballot with the little bubbles next to the candidates’ names and it makes them think of Continue reading “Literally NOT a Test”
I hear you saying you feel hopeless and powerless. The present is a disaster and your future looks bleak. There are problems everywhere you turn. The institutions that are supposed to protect you have betrayed you. You feel like your country has let you down.Continue reading “Dear Millennials: Don’t Die. Vote”
Would you make a thousand-mile, perilous journey in the hope of saving yourself or your children? I don’t know if I would have the courage. But I have a story in my own family history that comes close to the kind of desperation felt by the immigrant families pouring across our southern border.Continue reading “We Have Become a Nation with Zero Tolerance”
It’s time we stop thinking of Black Lives Matter as a “black person’s issue.” We need to stop thinking of #MeToo as a “women’s issue.” LGBTQ rights aren’t just important for gay people or people who have a gay family member. Islamophobia doesn’t just hurt Muslims; anti-Semitism doesn’t just effect Jewish people.
All people, of every race, ethnicity and religion, of every sexual orientation and gender identification MUST fight to ensure justice for everyone. We must all be allies in one another’s causes, because it’s going to take all of us standing together shoulder to shoulder doing the hard work necessary to create a society that is fair and just for every one of us.