by Thomas Schilk
So, the fires are again burning across America. No doubt, some people-mostly white-will lament the loss of property and say how shocking it all is. The hope will be that the glass and ashes are quickly swept away and we all can get back to business as usual. Of course, for many people-mostly black-business as usual means the very real chance of being murdered by the police as has been done again and again and again. I do care about business owners who need to get their businesses open to survive-that’s really crucial. I’m less sympathetic for those who need that essential tattoo, hot dress or cold brew before their heads explode!
Where is the empathy, concern and love for our black brothers and sisters? Why do we allow the systemic racism that keeps our fellow Americans subject to higher poverty rates, bad schools, inadequate or no health care, mass incarceration and more? And if they dare to “take a knee” at a sporting event or even complain about, say, being murdered by the police, then we dare to complain about how ungrateful “they” are. Could you imagine what would happen if scores of black men and women, armed to the teeth, stormed state capitals across this nation, in protest of their horrific treatment by the white majority? Yet, white people have done just that over and gain with no negative repercussions. Along with the continued and tragic closure of our favorite bars, gyms and tanning salons, our big complaint seems to be that we’re against government “control”. You know, white people just want “the man” to get his knee off our necks. (Oh, we also don’t want anyone burning “our” businesses, blocking “our” highways or even making a single sound in “our” movies theaters either. I mean, how gauche.)
I don’t know what the solution is but, I think, I know what the problem is. We-white people-do not have empathy, concern or love for black people, I believe, its just that simple. And, that’s what must change, for our betterment as well as everyone else.Maybe I’m naive but I think that simply spending time with black people would be a good start. And if they’ll have you-many will-talk less, listen more, follow more, lead less and show more courage and less fear. (I have some trouble shutting my own mouth but, believe me, its worth the effort.) That’s certainly not the whole of it but, I think, it’s a start. We need to realize that our black brothers and sisters should be treated as the beautiful and worthwhile human beings that they are. There’s no better way to do that then by opening our hearts, our minds and our lives up to those who want that.
I don’t know what it’s like to inhabit a black body and all the good and bad that goes with that. But I do know what its like to be beaten by the police and have been buried in prison for over 35 years now. Maybe I’m kidding myself but, I believe, that shared experience gives me a little insight and a lot of empathy for the plight of my black brothers. That’s not to say that I’m “color blind” or any nonsense like that. It is to say that despite my own prejudices and my own selfishness, when my black brothers and sisters are suffering, I feel it too. I also feel complicit. Whatever slight advantage I might gain, in this deprived environment, I am loath to give up. It’s sad, it’s sorry and its true. All for a bigger crust of bread.
George Floyd was murdered by the police. He is the latest in a long line that stretches back across centuries of our racist and genocidal national history. My fear is that unless we white people learn to love our black family members it will continue. That it may well depend on the very people who historically have not had the empathy, love and courage to do right is a scary thought indeed.
My heart goes out to all the everyday people who have suffered by the fire and destruction across the nation. I’m not for that. Yet, I don’t have the right or the want to tell my beloved black family members to turn the other cheek for another 400 years. BLM