One month ago a man pledging loyalty to the Islamic State killed 49 people at a popular gay nightclub in Orlando in the deadliest mass shooting in our nation’s history. In the aftermath of such hate, acts of kindness were displayed all over Orlando and our nation as we stood together to scream, “Enough!”
Black, white, Hispanic, Muslim, gay and straight Americans all stood in blood donation lines and lit each other’s candles at vigils, singing “Let It Be” in unison. And we once again mourned together for the loss of life and the sense of security we once had. We did this together and it seemed in the weeks following that horrific tragedy there was a sense of unity in our country that we hadn’t felt in some time.
How would we keep people from lands far, far away who hate us from inciting disturbed individuals in our own country from trying to massacre us all? How will we ever stop this torrent of hate flowing from the outside in? We will come together to defeat these forces, we shouted.
But not even a month later, the internal problems that have plagued our nation since its inception reminded us there is still so much hate to deal with from within.
Since the shooting death of a young black man here in Mobile and then two more in Louisiana and Minnesota by police officers, followed by the murder of five policemen in Dallas seemingly in retaliation, we were heartbroken again and took time to mourn together for the slain. But then the same old walls started slowly creeping back up.
“Black lives matter!” “Blue lives matter!” “All lives matter!” protesters shouted — even quite peacefully — from different rallies across the nation.
If you had told me when I was younger that by the time I was 40, people would have to hold rallies to remind us of such, I would have said that was a ridiculous notion. Of course they do!
But here we are at this unfortunate place and time in our society. How we got here has myriad causes and has been studied extensively and could fill up volumes, so I am not going to get into that here, but perhaps what we could do to go forward.
I humbly offer these suggestions:
Stop painting with such a broad brush.
Remember that the most vocal people you see spewing hate on social media on all sides of this (or any issue, for that matter) are usually the vocal minority. I am totally and completely embarrassed and outraged by what I see some white people posting. And absolutely perplexed by what I see some black people posting — my gosh, do they really think all white people think that and/or want to do that to them? I am sure the answer is no.
The vast, vast majority of us, regardless of race, are constantly processing the nuances of each situation and can find empathy and understanding for everyone involved in these tragic events. Even though this is a black and white issue, it’s not so black and white. And we have to remember that.
But we, in the silent majority, have to stop being such a bunch of pussies.
Excuse my French, I would ground my children until they died if they said that, much less put it in print, but we are. As we are doing our cute little aforementioned “nuance processing” and “thinking,” we are allowing those vocal minority jerks on all sides to make things worse and make their narratives seem like truths when they just aren’t.
White people, including those in leadership positions, are terrified to talk about this because they, um, we don’t want to be called racists and quite honestly we feel like there is nothing we can say that is going to be right, so we just don’t say anything at all, which just perpetuates the problem. It’s easier to just retreat.
I have been guilty of this countless times in my life. I will go through this very column a hundred times before you read it and ask myself “could this line be interpreted as racist?” Or, on the flip side, as having too much “white guilt.”
And I am exhausted by it, and I am tired of being a coward. I am tired of letting that fear hold me back … hold us all back.
But at the same time, I think some of our young black leaders let their elders from an older generation (and ones who I know went through things folks from our generation will never fully understand) hold them back from using a new playbook — one that would be much more effective in bridging our divides. But their fear of being called an “Uncle Tom” — even by one of our own councilmen who is fond of that term — holds them back from saying anything either.
It’s time for our generation — both black and white — who didn’t grow up in the most brutal years of the Civil Rights Era — to be able to sit down at a table and talk about these very real problems affecting us all right now and not be afraid of saying what we would usually only feel comfortable whispering.
We have been allowing our leaders on every level to do the same things over and over again for decades and clearly it hasn’t worked. It’s going to take bold and courageous new forms of leadership to get us past this. And I really feel like our generation and the ones coming up next are the ones to accomplish this. And the time to get moving is now.
Force ourselves to jump in other people’s shoes. This is difficult for many of us to do primarily because we often just have no clue what challenges our neighbors are dealing with on the other side of town. And we don’t really care all that much because we are all dealing with our own sets of problems no matter our ZIP code or what rung of the socioeconomic ladder we are on.
But there is one very basic, common thread we all share no matter who we are — no matter if we manage a Hardee’s or a hedge fund: we love our families — our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, spouses, sons and daughters — to the very core and fiber of our beings, no matter if they are bank robbers or bank presidents (some may argue those are one in the same anyway). And our biggest fear is one day they will be taken from us. And the understanding of this basic thread is really key in starting to solve the very problems we are facing in our country right now.
In order to deal with all of the hate coming in our country from the outside, we are going to first have to get rid of all that is on the inside. And the time is now.
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