Americans are hurting, some more than others. COVID and death, pandemics and loss, murder and outrage, this is the season of despair that grips us now. Some carry the traumas of previous moments of hurt, pain and suffering, while others seem blissfully unaffected and ignorant. But in these United States of America we fail ourselves if we lack the smarts to see the hurt, to feel the anguish, to confront the realities. What is happening on the streets of our nation and in cities across the globe can’t be dismissed as the acts of anarchists, saboteurs, and agent provocateurs, though they may be present. No, the thousands we have seen and heard are fellow citizens, from all walks of life, spanning the racial and age categories, all saying, “enough.” They understand the experiment we call democracy demands an informed and active citizenry. If kneeling before a flag was too radical, then they countered with marching in unison for change because the status quo is killing too many. So they speak.
In the days and weeks ahead, others will gather data for a postmortem analysis of why the country convulsed, mindful that from the murder of Emmett Till to the murder of George Floyd the body count mounted. In that time we will seek to understand how the original crime of stolen native lands, followed by African and native enslavement, Jim Crow and an age of racial terror contributed to the sense of enough. That history is littered with contradictions and inconsistencies. That history includes chapters where police officers and the communities they served worked in common to secure a better future for all. It also includes palpable instances of racist action and inhuman behavior—from lynchings and racialized insurrections, to hostile acts and subtle slights, to predatory lending practices and discriminatory employment practices.
Today our task is not to do that analysis. Today our job is to provide a forum for the range of informed feelings that define our humanity. We must grieve, speak and be heard before we offer solutions.
So we speak.