“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
At the end of an emotional week, it helps to try to pull back and look at the big picture. Despite the tragedy and frustration of the realities of life in the USA in general, and in Florida in particular, there are also signs of hope. It may seem that negativity, hatred and suspicion rule, but there are also people of good will, compassion and unity, and indications that there is opportunity for forward movement.
In case you haven’t noticed, we live on one planet. We share the same earth, breathe the same air, and no man is an island. Yet how do we move forward? How do we get there from here? In a world where young African American men are still judged guilty due to the color of their skin, how can we make the world safer for them? How can we change the perceptions, break the self-fulfilling stereotypes, and live in a world where all men (humans) are created equal?
In 1995, South Africans were able to move beyond the era of apartheid by the use of Truth and Reconciliation commissions. After decades of oppression and state sanctioned murder, those guilty of horrendous crimes against humanity were granted amnesty if they came forward and answered the charges with honesty. Those who had lost their loved ones or had been imprisoned for fighting for freedom, obtained some measure of satisfaction in hearing the perpetrators acknowledging what they had done.
It seems to be human nature to want to see revenge. When there is injustice, we want to see a price paid. We feel that the only way we will get satisfaction is to see the guilty party pay the price. But if we are talking about a lost life, does vengeance do anything to lessen the pain? And how can we find the strength to forgive and move forward. Holding on to hate and anger destroys the one hating, and has no effect on the other.
I am always hopeful that we can be bigger people, that as a society we will acknowledge a need to dig deeper to fix the problems. In the recent case, a conviction of Zimmerman would not have changed society or addressed the cancer of racism that still exists. It is time for us to undergo the necessary diagnostic workup, and the painful treatments that will excise the disease once and for all.
What are you doing to change the conversation? Did you know that in Florida there are young people occupying the State Capitol right now, to protest the ‘Stand your ground’ law and initiate a conversation with the Governor? If we are going to challenge the institutional racism and sexism and all the other ‘isms’ that exist in our society, we need to get involved, use the ballot effectively and know who are the people that we put in power.
But what about on a personal level? How diverse is your inner circle? What does your neighborhood look like? Do you make assumptions about other people based on their appearance? How about your children? Are they growing up in a homogeneous circle of friends, or can they hope for a different future? And if you feel the need to shout “You don’t know me!” then you probably also need to acknowledge “and I don’t know you either.”
We may stand with solidarity with the family of Trayvon Martin. As the mother of African American sons I too have had to listen to the stories. The arrest for loitering outside an elementary school at night. Being cuffed, face down on the street, because you and your friend were driving in his mother’s nice car. But do we also share some of George Zimmerman’s guilt? How did the ‘stand your ground’ law come to pass in Florida? Do we live in gated communities, suspicious of outsiders?
Even as we feel the rage and want a resolution to the injustices, we should take a breath and think of ways to make a meaningful change in the way we all live together in this one world. Do we give peace a chance? Do we work towards resolution or do we focus on the negative? If we don’t start to change in incremental ways one on one, we cannot hope for big nationwide changes. United we can achieve anything.
Last week I gave a presentation before a group of nurses. We were talking about the history of nursing, and though you may not realize it, the people that make up the majority of the workforce in healthcare actually have (or demonstrate) the least power. Economics and politics have conspired to mute our voices and keep us relatively powerless. Of course, if we were to unite and speak out on behalf of ourselves and our valuable role in healthcare, this would have to change. I quoted Sojourner Truth who asked (over a century ago) “Aren’t I a woman too?”. And I closed my presentation before this group that was 93% of European descent with the words of Bob Marley:
“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our mind.”
Have a fantastic Friday, and a great weekend, Family.
This is our One World, we are One People, may you feel the One Love.