OUTRAGE…

Outrage is universal! – it should be… it probably isn’t…

Tuesday was “blackout” and the black squares and circles on social media were, well encouraging… Protests – too small a word for what is happening – enter their second week and have trickled down to smaller towns and communities even as our larger urban centers struggle to maintain momentum. You can already feel apathy nibbling at the edges of our collective outrage.

It’s been ten days since George Floyd lost his life at the knee of a Minneapolis police officer; all while fellow officers and others stood by and watched. Charges have been filed, upgraded, expanded – autopsies completed and argued over – justice will no doubt be served at some point in the future – maybe. If justice is even possible in a scenario like this… how do you adjudicate with any real satisfaction the underlying cancer that transcends the act itself?

Arguments will erupt about Floyd’s character, whether the charges were applied quickly enough or if they were harsh enough, the conversation is bound to devolve as it usually does when we attempt to rationalize events like this. The danger of course is that we have a conversation about the symptoms and not the underlying causes and once again refuse to debate what level of latent prejudice we are comfortable with.

So, how long before things return to normal, before the routine is resumed and we, unaware, once again await an egregious act to spur our collective conscience… how long? My guess is we are already on the path back to status quo – oh the rallies will continue for a bit – youthful exuberance – legislation may be introduced, certainly we will see this dialogue front and center in coming elections… No one really believes we will wholesale “defund” the police and certainly sometime over the next number of months we will hear about convictions in Minneapolis, Floyd’s mural will start to weather and the stacked flowers will have faded; because real substantive evolution (not revolution) is difficult – it takes time, commitment, and resolve; real change has to by its very nature reflect the will of the nation.

Prejudice, and in its worst iteration, racism can’t be eliminated through legislation, protests, outrage… there is no inoculation for this disease. I have heard racism described as a “burning in the bones, something that is inescapable and never goes away…” it doesn’t really matter if you believe or understand it; each individual’s perception of things is their reality – we are not entitled or empowered to cast doubt on their personal experience.

So, what does it all mean? I can only speak for myself, but I believe that until we deal with the latent prejudice in all of us – individually in our own personal work on ourselves – can we begin to achieve any real lasting and substantive change. We all know the clichés – they exist because we have adopted them into the fabric of our culture: how certain people drive, are criminals, good at math, privileged, cheap, and all the other petty judgements we use to justify how we treat each other. These provide the thin layer of justification for deeper seated racism and hate – we need to strip the icing off and examine what lies below with an unvarnished honesty – hard of course – necessary unquestionably…

It’s time to start our individual journey of self-realization to determine what type of person we are and want to be… so that collectively we can create a society and culture where repetitive acts of hate are no longer the norm.

#Charlottesville

I feel like I need to preface this particular commentary with a bit of a disclaimer or at least explanation I believe racism and even more than racism – prejudice transcends the traditional boundaries of white and black extending to any number of “colors” and includes ethnicity, beliefs and orientations. Unfortunately, humanity has not managed to constrain its ability to hate based solely on the observation that someone is different than I am. What I sometimes find truly puzzling is that even groups that have traditionally been on the receiving side of systemic prejudice manage to manufacture plenty of their own.

As I am sure most of you have seen on your local news, social media or any number of other places we are witnessing another flare up of racial intolerance and hate in Charlottesville VA. I’m not going to comment on that specifically, you don’t need me to tell you why this type of behavior is abhorrent – however don’t make the mistake of thinking the revocation of “free speech” is the answer – it isn’t; that protection exists for all of us and the erosion of it, even for a group such as this, affects us all.

But what has me a bit worked up this morning is the number of shares on my social media quoting some preacher, politician, or celebrity decrying the situation in Charlottesville, they use words like: terrorist, Nazi, extremist and so on – point is they are worked up and outraged and many people are rallying to this message and sharing it with their endorsement, good for you I say.

However, I have only one real question… where was the ferocity of your rage yesterday, last week, last year? Where will it be tomorrow, next week or next month? When the torches have been put out and the crowds have disbursed and we return to the mundane everyday racism and prejudice that hides in the shadows of our everyday lives, where will your fervent outcry be then? Will we still see your pointed posts, will you still be preaching it from your pulpits? You see the problem is we already know the answer… and unfortunately most will return to their tepid outrage and tacit acceptance of “that’s just how it is…”

You know there is a word for this… hypocrisy…