If watching the news, seeing our leader crumble under pressure, and representatives blatantly denying help to people isn’t enough, what will make us realize the consistent message that has been sent by many wise people throughout history? From John Lennon to James Baldwin, unique individuals living in globalized capitalist countries have to come to the same conclusion that the spread of hate and discrimination will only fester, much like how COVID-19 haunting us now. Racism has impacted more lives than the virus ever will. This moment is a chance for us to reflect as a species and discover the motives of our constant violence, selfishness, and oppression.
“I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong,” (2 Corinthians 12:10). Jesus is the most famous man in history, the son of God, and the ultimate sacrifice that saved humanity. His choosing of weakness and self-sacrifice tells a powerful story that shows what humility and bravery actually mean. We need to be humble. Humble enough to not order something foolish on Amazon to compensate for “being bored” at home. Humble enough to take that $15 and help out the elderly in your community or give it to an organization that helps our most vulnerable people. We need to be brave. Instead, we worry. Worry about being seen as weak and vulnerable in a dark time. Worry about facing your demons in the confines of your home. Worry enough to chase down an innocent man and kill him because he fit the description.
Two questions can and should rattle around ones mind at a time like this: What have I done to support others? What have I done to hurt others? The truth is, we are blind to the answers to these questions because we are distracted by the charade in our government, media, social media, and online content. How many times have you skipped over a documentary about deforestation, mass incarceration, industrial farming, and poverty to watch Tiger King, Love is Blind, and any of your favorite binge-worthy shows? While entertaining these programs are numbing. We’d be better served taking the time to reflect on how wicked we are to each other.
In America, racism has made us numb. Numb to the point where losing loved ones to violence is normalized. In a recent film, All Day and a Night directed by Joe Robert Cole, A young man (Ashton Saunders) goes through life only knowing wrath. Whether it was the abuse at home or at school, he decided he wasn’t going to be weak and became violent. In his rage, he came to kill the man in front of the man’s child for several reasons chief among them being that the man sold his father drugs. This heinous act landed the young man in jail for murder where his father was, slated to the same fate of life in prison. It is difficult to grow up in poverty, but to those who deal with it, often attempt to deal with it in weakness. Whether it be allowing the never-ending onslaught of police harassment, scared fathers defeated by the system, or the criminalization of public health issues, challenging the system to defeat its range of factors that make it statistically impossible to succeed is hard. We all can’t choose weakness. We all can’t watch and standby as a police officer slams our childhood friends to the ground for loitering. We all can’t sit there and take the domestic abuse from a partner or parent. In our pain, we have no choice but to be hardened by what society has shown us.
It is the overarching narrative that black people in America are violent because of their nature. The simplicity of this statement not only undermines the black experience, but it also justifies the historical oppression of a group of people. In other words, it makes white people feel better in their ignorance. In the movie, Django Unchained, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Monsieur Candy, a slave owner of a large plantation, makes the argument that claims people of African descent have a dimple in the brain that allows for them to be more submissive. In turn, this justifies his current trade. Scientists have proven this to be wrong, but this gives insight into the wickedness of some white people. Instead of being weak and admitting the mistakes that were made throughout history, they make excuses, draw false conclusions, or flat out ignore their violent and oppressive history. All of their vices have led to the suffering of all oppressed people in America.
We are ignoring our mistakes of the past because we are afraid to be vulnerable. White people are afraid of black people, not because of the false media caricatures and narratives, but because they think we may want revenge. They think we yearn to be wicked to them as they were wicked to us for 400 years. I don’t want to speak for the entire group of Black Americans, but this is certainly not true. We seek freedom. Freedom from being put in a box and labeled as light-skin, dark-skin, Dominican, or Puerto-Rican. Freedom from always having to be tough or hard and called soft when showing emotion. Freedom to love each other regardless of race, class, creed, sexual orientation, or belief in yourself. We want the freedom to choose who we want to be in this life and deserve the acknowledgment, appreciation, and admiration from our current oppressors. Dismantle the systems that oppress us, take the opportunity to show weakness, and lead with love. Are we mad? Yes, Hell, Yes! But only love will get us through this. If every individual in our country chose to be weak and loving, the spread will be contagious.
On March 3, 1991, Rodney King was leaving a friend’s house and was driving at 117 mph on a Los Angeles freeway. Two officers attempted to pull Rodney over, but he refused because he was afraid of violating his parole, afraid of being back in the system. The police officers, as they should have, continued the pursuit by adding a helicopter and other cars to the chase. At this point, Rodney was pushing it, and eventually was going to get caught. The story could have ended with his arrest and be headlined as “high-speed chase ends in arrest”, but it didn’t. The officers beat the shit out of Rodney and his friends, on camera. They made excuses, the White people kind. Instead of arresting them when they clearly outnumbered Rodney and his friends, they showed their anger and wrath through their nightsticks and kicks. At that moment, the officers could have shown love to Rodney and help him understand that drunk driving is wrong. Being that all of this happened and the officers were acquitted, Los Angeles broke out into a riot. In the midst of violence and social unrest, Rodney King had one question. “Can we all just get along?” Rodney probably held on to this question his entire life as he struggled with alcohol before and after the incident coping with the traumas of his life and not having anyone help him. Those officers could have helped him that night but they didn’t. They still don’t because they suffer from the same wrath that has plagued this country. This is not only a call to White people but a call to all of us. I want to get to a place where I cannot hate other living beings but love them. Love them so much to the point where if they can threaten me with death and I will weep. Not in fear or anger, but in disappointment that my love wasn’t stronger than their rage. I challenge us to reflect on what that looks like and if we chose weakness, how our future will reveal our love toward each other.
We must put aside our differences and choose to be free of insecurities or fear. If someone needs help, and you have the means to do so, do it. Be an ally to a friend and support them in their journey navigating privilege and oppression. Being taken advantage of is a risk, but Malcolm, MLK, Chavez knew that risk and still spread love, equality, and justice for all. We can learn from their moments of weakness because they are our prophets, our martyrs and in those moments they became symbols of strength. If you find yourself in a position of power or authority, think about the impact you can make spreading kindness and empathy. Speaking to each other rather than violence. We are all not perfect, but being benevolent to others in moments when we don’t have to be is the best imperfection. Benevolence is the cure to the virus of hate.
As we see people come together over the death of an innocent man, we see this love and compassion for life take over. George Floyd’s death is sparking this revolution to dismantle the system that is designed to create fear, violence, and hate. People are choosing to stand up by looting their favorite stores, burning the establishments that we all may love to shop at, and affirming that those who take life should be held accountable. This may seem like a position of power, but it leaves those protestors vulnerable to being murdered themselves. Like MLK. Like Malcolm. This doesn’t matter to them; they would rather be vulnerable and make a point than to hoard their strength in silence. Now a man is to be put on trial for his heinous crime. If we continue to be empathetic and vulnerable, we can establish a system that allows us to be human.