“There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
The American pandemic experience has illuminated cracks in our society: a fractured healthcare system, our fragile economic structure, how many of us are physically and economically vulnerable, and our country’s lack of a united readiness when faced with domestic crisis. George Floyd’s death is the latest spotlight on an unjust society fed by systemic racism, carried on the backs of our black and brown neighbors, and benefiting those who are white. It’s ugly, but we can’t change what we don’t acknowledge.
I moved to a state with a shameful history of which I was ignorant. Oregon was formed in 1859 for “whites only,” the statutes weren’t changed until 1922. My dad was alive then. The 15th amendment (guaranteeing the right to vote regardless of color) wasn’t ratified here until 1959. That’s after I was born. The 14th amendment which grants citizenship to all persons born or naturalized (including former slaves) and equal protection under the law wasn’t ratified in Oregon until 1973. I was in college at that time. When you tie history to events in your own life, you realize it wasn’t that long ago. If you’re white, claim you’re not racist, and are unaware of how you’ve benefited from racial injustice, you may be offended by my words. My advice is to educate yourself about white privilege. This, too, is my continuing education.
My heart breaks over the anger and frustration roiling in our streets. We’ve seen this movie before and the ending has yet to change. Meanwhile the pandemic continues to have its way with us. I want everyone to have a fighting chance to survive and thrive, including me. I long for a rallying voice to impel us toward dialog and real healing. I want to participate.
I wish we had a coherent and coalescing national response to both the pandemic and the understandable fury expressed by fellow Americans. I wish we were all in this together but how can that be with an uneven playing field. I wish had each other’s backs, but that’s not possible when we don’t understand others’ reality. I’m angry that another black man was killed by yet another white police officer who heard a dying man plead that he couldn’t breathe. I know that’s not all (or even most) police officers. I have empathy for those protesting, who have assessed risks and have determined it’s worth it. Cruelly, the virus disproportionately harms black and brown people. I’ve noticed the many mask-wearing demonstrators who are protecting those around them while collectively demanding attention.
I have zero empathy for my fellow citizens who frolic in crowds to party and sunbathe, heedless of social distancing or masks. I know that’s not everyone, or even most people. We have rights and responsibilities to our communities—not to place our own desires above the common good and insist we don’t see the problem. We can’t plead ignorance. That applies to more than the pandemic.
We don’t like discomfort yet without the cracks the light doesn’t get in. Transformation doesn’t happen when we're comfortable. You know this from your own life experience. Even though change tends to be initially painful, it’s ultimately satisfying because it propels us toward our dreams. Let’s envision a healthy and just society.
It was fifty-six years ago(!) that Bob Dylan sang, “The times they are a-changin’.” What do you think will move us forward as a society? Please comment in the box below.
Sending you appropriately physically distanced encouragement—and the hope that you’ll be called to do what is yours to do.