So it comes down to this. Someone takes a life, and someone takes another life as retribution, and someone responds by taking another life, and so on and so forth. It’s not really difficult to see why that doesn’t work out well, doesn’t lead to lasting change, and doesn’t end. In fact, to think otherwise is a little mind-boggling and more than a little unscientific. People in favour of violent response to violence and war might think they are the realists, but they are in fact the polyannas of the world.”I will just apply this little bit of violence and destruction to this particular issue and everything will be better.”
However, people who feel themselves to be under threat will defend themselves and their families. They will fight to survive, and this seems like a reasonable thing to do. Black and brown people are under threat on many fronts in North America. It is not an opinion but a fact. The stats on who dies more often at the hands of police, who is incarcerated at higher rates, whose health and homes and livelihoods are most jeopardized by poverty and insecurity, you will find it is not Caucasians. And if you point the finger at the people who are most at risk of death and misery because of this situation– dark-skinned people– then that too seems like a rather ludricous and irrational conclusion to jump to.
Would people who truly have an equal opportunity at happiness and success for themselves and their children turn it down in favour of lives where they struggle to survive, or are threatened by violence? I don’t think so. Not by choice. It doesn’t make sense. In fact the whole picture seems weirdly surreal and inexplicable until you factor in systemic racism. Then a coherent picture begins to emerge.
These are really broad strokes. I guess i’m painting them that way because I am beginning to see things that way. If you get up close to the picture you will see a lot of bewildering details, some of which seem relevant and some of which seem arbitrary; but when you stand back you can see the swaths of colour. whole communities, whole ethnicities, that have been painted with the same brush.
I am as racist, as biased and as dumb as the next person. I say that while believing in the essential goodness of humanity, because although I think of myself as an individual with a free mind and free will, I am only free within certain limitations and parameters. I am a part of this painting after all. But I have been squinting at this picture for awhile now. That’s me, the little pale yellow dot trying to float free– like a balloon, hoping to get a bird’s eye view of this place.
As I get older my mind becomes less sharp it seems, less acute, less able to find the key, but I do see things differently. Even if I am not able to envision a different world, I can at least I can see this one from a distance better than I could before when my vision seemed so dazzlingly clear. It helps to keep telling myself the truth about myself and about the world as I see it, to start with that small step. I can do that in the shelter of my own mind, with my heart churning away in the background, the engine that drives the whole thing.
In the end I think we will only survive as a species if we stop doing stupid things. And the stupidest thing we can do is to think that things like love and justice and truth are just pretty ideas that don’t have any power. If we ignore them, out hunger for them will grow; if we do not satisfy our hunger for them they will consume us; and if we continue to deny them they will destroy us.