• We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately. -Benjamin Franklin, Freedom Fighter

  • We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. -Martin Luther King, Jr., Freedom Fighter

  • Let us be cautious in making assertions and critical in examining them, but tolerant in permitting linguistic forms. -Rudolf Carnap, Philosopher

  • A clash of doctrines is not a disaster—it is an opportunity. -Alfred North Whitehead, Philosopher

  • If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Poet

  • Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. -Rumi, Mystic

  • If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things. – Rene Descartes, Philosopher

  • A house divided against itself cannot stand. -Abraham Lincoln, President

  • Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them. -Albert Einstein, Scientist

  • Be the change you want to see in the world. -Mahatma Gandhi, Freedom Fighter

Independence Day 2020

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. ~ Declaration of Independence.

The murder of George Floyd by a policeman in May has been the equivalent of a Richter 9.0 earthquake on the body politic.

Floyd’s murder is but one of several murders this year of Blacks by police — and vigilantes — that have shaken the body politic.

These murders — these quakes on the body politic — are on top of another major earthquake: The COVID-19 pandemic with its impact on our health and our economy.

And, as should not be surprising, the health and economic impact of COVID-19 has disproportionately fallen on Black and Brown people.

More quakes. Big quakes. Richter 9.0 quakes. The body politic has cracked open. Wide open.

And having cracked open, we are now seeing things that might not have been clear before.

As has been true from our origins, we the people may be created equal, but we are far from being treated equal.

**********

I was in college when Bull Connor used fire hoses and police dogs against Blacks protesting segregation. The images on our television sets woke America to how unperfect our union was, leading to the civil rights legislation we passed in the 1960s.

Eight minutes and 46 seconds of Derek Chauvin’s knee on George Floyd’s neck is having that same impact.

With George Floyd’s murder — and the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and so many others — we the people … particularly we white people … are awakening to systemic racism, many for the first time. [1]

Of the 15 books on the New York Times Best Seller List, 11 are on the subject of systemic racism … and a 12th is Michelle Obama’s autobiography.

Public opinion on race and criminal justice issues has been steadily moving left since the first protests ignited over the fatal shootings of Trayvon Martin in 2012 and Michael Brown two years later. Nearly 2/3 of Americans now support Black Lives Matter. Net support for Black Lives Matter is now +28, up from a 17-point margin before the most recent wave of protests began. [2]

Four recent polls suggest that between 15 million and 26 million people in the United States have participated in demonstrations over the death of George Floyd and others in recent weeks. These figures would make the recent protests the largest movement in the country’s history. [3]

***********

The past is never dead. It’s not even past. ~ William Faulkner

Blacks and whites are talking together and … more importantly … whites are listening. With our heads. With our hearts. And with a deep appreciation of who we are as a people and who we want to become. [4]

In our conversations, a new political force is emerging. Local governments are redirecting resources, committing to invest in our underserved too-often-Black communities. Congress is poised to pass powerful legislation designed to root out racism from law enforcement. Even the state of Mississippi has been compelled to remove the confederate symbol from its state flag … Yes, just a symbol … but what a symbol. [5]

But it’s hard. Very hard.

Systems with roots that go back 2,500 years don’t change easily. That’s part of the reason they’ve survived.

Too many whites are still in denial about systemic racism, perceiving an attempt to discuss systemic racism as an accusation of their own racism.

And even those of us who “get it” are doubly challenged. We don’t know how to talk about systemic racism with Blacks and we don’t know how to help our white brothers and sisters understand that America’s racism is a flaw in our system not a personal attack.

This is the system protecting itself: if we don’t recognize it, we can’t talk about it. And if we can’t talk about it, we can’t change it.

And then are those who don’t believe we are all created equal. Nazis and other white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville, for example. And the President who after saying there are very fine people on both sides after Charlottesville called protesters evil last night. As if rising up and living out the true meaning of our creed is evil.

***********

We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. … T. S. Eliot

We have been to this place before. We were here at our birth, 244 years ago today. We were here again four score and seven years later. And again at Seneca Falls and the beaches of Normandy and the Edmund Pettus Bridge at Selma and at Stonewall and Standing Rock, always returning to our creed: that we are all created equal.

We are again at this place … poised to remove systemic racism from our political system, poised to take the next step in our experiment of government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

And as we learn to talk about our racism it will be a time to heal … a time to look with open eyes at our past, a time to share truth, a time to share tears, a time for forgiveness, a time for reconciliation.

John Adams arguing for independence in the Continental Congress in 1776 said We are in the very midst of a revolution, the most complete, unexpected and remarkable of any in the history of nations.

The revolution continues.

Let Freedom Ring.

 

[1] For a deep historical exposition of systemic racism see Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X Kendi, 2016. Kendi’s book is a National Book Award winning history of how racist ideas were created, spread, and deeply rooted in American society. For a history of post-Civil War racism in the south, see Mitch Landrieu’s book In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History, 2018 and The Confederacy Was an Antidemocratic, Centralized State, The Atlantic, June 21, 2020. For a personal Black perspective see You Want a Confederate Monument? My Body Is a Confederate Monument, New York Times, June 26, 2020. For a current political perspective see Juneteenth and the Meaning of Freedom, Jelani Cobb, The New Yorker, June 19, 2020.

[2] How Public Opinion Has Moved on Black Lives Matter, New York Times, June 10, 2020.

[3] Black Lives Matter May Be the Largest Movement in U.S. History, New York Times, July 3, 2020

[4] See, for example, How to be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi, The Aspen Institute. Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man, Emmanuel Acho. Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man – Episode 2 with Matthew McConaughey, Emmanuel Acho. How racial bias works — and how to disrupt it, Jennifer L. Eberhardt, TED2020.

[5] Goodbye to a Symbol That Told Black Americans to ‘Know Your Place’, New York Times, July 3, 2020

(c) Copyright 2020. Stan Stahl, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.

 

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