This has been a pretty horrible week. I don’t even know how to express the grief and anger I feel for everyone involved in all of the events this week. The worst part is trying to find a way to help.
There aren’t marches to lead people to polls that are denied them. Community organizers work diligently to help get people registered and have accessible polling stations.
There isn’t a Woolworths which is actively resisting change. The symbolism of sitting at a counter and asking for food is no small thing. We need that kind of symbolism now.
A new kind of racism has appeared, and instead of blocking, it says “but…” – he was good man but… and just like any other but… statement in the world – it’s only what you say after that anyone hears. The seeds of doubt being planted by these but…‘s are insidious, difficult to fight – sometimes damn hard to even pin down.
I can sometimes use big-picture responses to these kinds of racism. Statistics: proof that overall averages aren’t in line with their but… When over 75% of an area has “priors” (many of which are minor nuisance ordinances like uncut grass or saggy pants) then the distrust between the police and the people they should be protecting erodes. When cites literally use their power to extract money from their populace… they create a barrier. They create the environment of distrust which makes it more difficult for them to read body language for threat. Because yes, people will be more defensive and more aggressive (depending on their nature) when they know those are their only choices: fight or flight.
Think about it. If you know the cop is without-a-doubt looking for something to charge you for – especially if you are already strapped for cash – wouldn’t you be stressed? Inevitably, this tension appears in body language. the cop reads tension and adds their insidious ear worm of unconscious bias that is all too easy to fall into. The cop has lived an experience of threat and they begin to react. The person reacts. The cop reacts. It spirals…
And it’s hard to fight. I hope in two hundred years our prodigy can look back on this period and ask questions like, “how could anyone think that’s ok?” and “why didn’t they just do L?” (whatever L is that seems so obvious to them!) I hope this becomes another paragraph in the history books that children learn from because we have figured it out.
So this week I grieve for all the families that are suffering right now. I grieve for the trauma that others have relived because of this. I will stand and hold hands with anyone who says they want to change this – I may not know how to create a symbol like Woolworths. I may not know where to lead a march. I wish I did. I wish I had the magic words which could counter all this pain and hatred.
I can’t provide answers or solutions. But I can offer my ear to anyone who needs to speak their pain. I can offer my shoulder to any who need to weep. I can offer my hands for any who just feel they do not have the strength to lift their burden again. I will not ask what I can do -I will try to just do.