The most historic time that I’ve experienced in my memory has been interrupted with another event and now global social movement. Now, all of those commercials that begin with “In these unprecedented times…” are not specific enough. Which extraordinary event are we referring to?
Because of that, I’m now viewing and processing most I read, watch, and listen to through the lens of global pandemic and equity social justice. Those two, like everything are actually connected. Yesterday I read two items that helped me begin to process these events.
Barbara Kingsolver said in an interview published in the March 2014 issue of The Sun:
Five hundred years ago people burned witches. two hundred and fifty years ago slavery was still acceptable. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” said Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Those are the words I come back to on the bad days…like on the morning of the Boston Marathon bombing, or any other morning when hatred seems entrenched. The arc of history is so long you can’t see the end of it, so you don’t sense the movement. It’s an arc. It goes around to the other side of the horizon.
One way to draw an arc is to mathematically plot out precise points and then connect them. The closer together the points, the easier it is to draw an accurate arc. We are at a point on the arc of history. We are in a crucial moment in time our children and grandchildren will read about, reflect on, learn from, analyze, and evaluate.
Tim O’Brien reflected on his decision to go to the Vietnam War in his 2019 book , Dad’s Maybe Book (p. 85):
I was aware that the war had done things to me that could not be undone. Partly, I guess, I was full of anger. There was guilt, too, and lots of it. I had betrayed my conscience – my own heart and my own head – by going to a war I considered unjust. I had participated in a killing, and I had done so out of moral cowardice. There were no other words for it. I had been afraid of ridicule and embarrassment. I had been afraid of displeasing others, including my parents and my hometown and my country, and when you do things you believe are wrong because you were afraid to not do them, you cannot call it anything but what it is, and the correct word is cowardice.
The last two weeks are forcing the white supremacist majority culture to confront our (including me) moral cowardice. We have looked away or done things we knew were wrong. That was moral cowardice. In this moment we can do the hard work of reflection, analysis, conversation, and action to connect the last point on the arc to the next, and the next; or we can once again turn away and remain silent or worse, do more of the same. This would be moral cowardice.
I hope we have the courage to stand up this time.
I will stand up to, and face down our personal and systemic racism. I will be heard and seen, no matter how difficult and uncomfortable, advocating for equity, lifting voices that need to be heard, giving of myself, my time, my money, and my privilege to remove barriers to equality.
It will be difficult. It will require that I possibly clash with friends and family and maybe even painfully part ways with some. It will mean I as part of the the dominant white supremacist majority must share power and wealth, and give up advantage and privilege.
I begin by listening. Truly listening and hearing the stories of deep pain I have participated in causing and allowing those voices to lead what we do in this moment in time.