It must be nice to walk into a grocery store with a mask and not worry about the personnel keeping an eye on you. It must be nice walking into an establishment and having keys to the restroom handed to you even though there is no intention of patronizing the store. It must be nice having most people you meet have no hesitations about approaching you simply by the way you look. It must be nice when everywhere you go, most people look like you.
It is Very Nice
The other day I made a quick stop at the grocery store. While checking out the produce, there was a tall, African American man doing the same. He was minding his own business, and other than the fact that he towered over me, there was nothing conspicuous about him. I don’t even know if he saw me but for a brief moment, his presence startled me for no good reason.
Not long after, the situation with Christian Cooper came to light at Central Park and next, the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. While my hesitation at the grocery store had no impact on any acts of inequity, it definitely alerted me it was time to seriously examine myself for any hidden prejudiced reactions against those whose complexion is different from mine.
If you are familiar with my writing, you’ll know kindness, good intentions, and integrity are all fundamental themes throughout my work. I constantly emphasize self-change rather than expecting it from others. Individual strength is shown by our vulnerability and not measured by how much weight we can bench press. Promoting or condoning violence is something I will always continue to discourage and oppose.
It must be nice to have this as my personal conviction. However, I’ve never been handcuffed with an officer’s knee on my neck cutting off my air passage. I’ve never had anyone threaten to call the police on me for simply asking them to obey the law.
Certainly, these are not reasons to incite violence, but let’s examine a moment in US history when a call to arms became the only perceived choice.
Paying taxes is always a point of contention colonists in pre-colonial America. It quickly came to a head when the British Parliament passed The Stamp Act in 1765. Despite this and several other acts, along with enhanced British soldier presence, it failed to quash the acts of these seditious rebels.
Eventually, the Crown had enough and in 1775, King George III gathered both houses of Parliament and read his “Proclamation of Rebellion” ultimately giving consent to dispatch troops against his own subjects, which many colonists considered impossible.
The King asserted, “many of these unhappy people may still retain their loyalty and wish to resist it,” which quickly prompted action to stop the “torrent of violence,” insisting “that to be a subject of Great Britain, with all its consequences, is to be the freest member of any civil society in the known world.”
There were loyalists who fervently believed the rebellion was treasonous, unethical, and “against the will of God.” Despite all this, ultimately, the American Revolution ensued and today, most Americans revere these brave patriots as Forefathers who birthed one of the most powerful nations this planet has ever witnessed. Their actions, along with thousands who gave their lives, finally established the US constitution, allowing me to state my opinions under the rights and privileges it grants – for which I too am eternally grateful.
This is not an indictment against those who so boldly, gave their lives. Undeniably, their abhorrence for how they were being treated was the catalyst for the forthcoming conflict. Their anger and subsequent rebellion was caused by what they believed was unfair treatment. It didn’t entail overt and state-sanctioned discrimination. It wasn’t about their brothers and sisters being wrongfully and knowingly arrested, injured or unspeakably abused. Was there any way possible they could have resolved those pre-colonial issues with more reasonable and less tragic outcomes?
The American Revolution founded freedom for many, yet nearly half of the framers of Constitution owned slaves. It took a Civil War and later, the 14th Amendment to begin to detail what those freedoms were. Nevertheless, discrimination persisted and is notably evident to this day.
As much as I am assured there is a better way than riots and destruction to resolve an injustice, the actions by these Patriots have been justified despite being vehemently abhorred by many of their contemporaries.
I am not passing judgement. I am simply asking a question.
It is Very Nice
It must be nice to have the choice of purchasing a home anywhere one wishes. I have no clue what it feels like not to be able to purchase a home because of the color of my skin.
After World War1, buying a home was a prudent way to invest and accrue wealth. However, owners of these construction companies in the early part of the twentieth century made it part of their charter to declare homes could not be sold to anyone other than whites. It was a business decision plain and simple.
The sentiment of the day was if a minority were to purchase a home in the community, it would discourage other whites from buying. This discriminatory policy was challenged all the way to the Supreme Court and was eventually upheld! I don’t know what it feels like to have the “rule of law” tell me I cannot buy a home because my parents weren’t both white.
All of us are aware discrimination of this type is strictly forbidden by current law. But have those current laws stripped this behavior and completely erased it from occurring in contemporary real estate transactions?
It’s easy for me to condemn the violence. It’s simple for me to tell people to work hard and not expect handouts. But I’ve never been turned down for a job because of the way I look. Nothing has held me from accomplishing what I want other than my own desire or lack thereof. I’ve not been pigeonholed into an occupation because of other’s expectations or have it deemed it was the only work available for “people like them.”
I wish I could blame the current anxiety on the novel coronavirus, but the increase began a few years prior this outbreak. Racial injustice occurred long before this nation even fought to become united. However, it has been escalating quite rapidly over the past few years.
It can no longer be simply “nice” for me. I cannot remain static; hoping my life continues as “normal” while millions of people face daily threats purely based on their race, ethnicity, or the color of their skin.
What actions can I take?
When someone tells a racial or off-color joke, I shouldn’t simply wince and turn my back or worse, fold under peer pressure and laugh along with the “boys.” I must rail against it with the very same ease with which they used to spew their racial garbage.
I can confess not knowing or being able to imagine the struggles others are facing and show true empathy and compassion to their situations.
I don’t have to assume the reason someone struggles is they don’t work hard enough. I don’t have to argue that a helping hand only helps them remain unemployed.
I won’t vote for legislatures or judges whose aim is to perpetuate this appalling and divisive behavior.
I don’t need to immediately condemn the actions of those whose differ from mine. Even though these are acts to which I would never subscribe, it would be nice if I could indeed empathize and actually try to come to an understanding and resolution.
Equal opportunity is a right I take for granted, yet for many is another area of discrimination they can add to their list of inequalities. I must help defend that right for those who’ve been denied it far too long.
For much of this nation’s history, most minorities have striven to be orderly and well-behaved. Unfortunately, looters have crept in among them, selfishly taking advantage of these troubling times and severely damaging the efforts of peaceful protesters. Their careless actions are no less deplorable than the violence which the true demonstrators are fighting against.
Some altruistic activists near the point of becoming angry may begin to exhibit signs of inciting violence. Wouldn’t curbing or halting such behavior help their cause? It would be easy for me to sit back and expect them to tone it down, but I’ve never been unjustly pepper sprayed in the face. Nor has my heart shattered while watching years of my hard work and investment burn by a vindictive looter's revenge.
I’m only asking questions
I am not claiming to be a spokesperson for those who’ve never or rarely faced discrimination of any sort. I am merely asking what I can do as an individual. However, why is it okay for me to ask the daughters of agricultural workers, the sons of menial immigrant laborers, or the descendants of slaves of all races, to change their behavior without any consideration of altering mine? What divine being gave so-called “real Americans” the staff of justice, a measuring stick of fairness, or the sword of discernment to utilize it at our whim and discretion? If such a being exists, it is one deity I will fight against for the sake of and in the name of justice.
The best hope for peace is a meeting of mutual respect with the willingness of all involved to come to an understanding of everyone’s plight. All must be willing to adapt, empathize, understand, and become aware of everyone’s needs equally and without bias. It takes courage. And most of all, the courage to admit personal mistakes and being open to change them.
There’s a bit of irony here. While we are being told there will be a new normal once a vaccine or other measures are discovered to control COVID-19, at the same time, there must be a new normal to address the racial and ethnic inequalities which the entire globe has refused to admit. It is not a problem for the US alone, but like in many other things, we happen to be the world leader at the moment.
It would be nice to return to the 2019 normal, at least for me. However, my wish for everyone is to be able to live in a world where many of the niceties which I have taken for granted, would be a common experience shared by all.