Racism: We Have to be Vigilant During These Times

This was written before the horrific Baton Rouge shootings of policemen.

The latest aberrations violence has taken on are the familiar spirits of racism, police brutality and revenge. It is dividing us along those fault lines. For the sake of honesty and brevity, let’s just admit that America has history and knows each of these negative reactions very well. In fact, we were one of the world’s leading experts in its practices. These relics of a time we should have apologized for and resolved are the ugly underbelly that initiates and justifies violence. By not formally apologizing and fully repairing the wrongs these caused we continue to give them life.

But, don’t get it twisted; these are only symptoms that fuel the hate that is violence and death. I mean, you may have the flu, but the symptoms are a runny nose, body aches and fever. You don’t only treat the symptoms, you treat the whole disease. And the disease, the addiction is violence. When you only treat the symptom, it may subside for a while but, sooner or later, the disease (flu) will come back with a vengeance, turn into pneumonia and probably kill you. So let’s stay focused on the disease, the addiction of violence in our recovery plan while we treat the symptoms.

The symptom of racism in America has its natural cousins: poverty, economic inequality, a superiority complex and paternalism. The thoughts that “they” are less worthy or it’s “their” fault preside to make some feel better. And, worst of all, the thoughts that if “they” “progress” then they are taking something from me. So we create this game of cause and effect. This attitude is purveyed constantly over the airwaves making people believe we are inherently different and as long as I and mine are okay, then life is good. Watch out for this message over and over this election cycle.

The problem with this thought process is that the world is interconnected now and events what happen 5000 miles away affect us immediately. And, we haven’t adjusted well. That’s why we see spikes in elicit, dangerous and negative activities in communities all across this county. Like the spike in opiate and methamphetamine use by Middle America. But, we still want to differentiate by saying this drug is different or worse than another drug. This forever keeps the superiority model alive and is costing lives.

Instead of realizing that the ties that bind us together are stronger than the forces that pull us apart we take our frustrations out on what’s different and what we fear for some reason. We arrest and jail black men disproportionately. We take away and limit needed resources. We participate in gerrymandering to dilute the power of entire voting blocks in order to remain in power. We gentrify entire communities in the name of progress.

These actions unfortunately cause those who continue to endure these powerful forces to turn on each other, and in some cases, just quit. You have the rise in high school dropout rates. You have the increase in gang membership which promotes havoc in communities by increasing drug wars, petty crimes and again, violence. On top of this is the extreme economic disparity that continues to persist. Is it any wonder that these communities don’t explode and erupt when there is a perceived unjustified police shooting? The feeling is, with all these other pressures, one should be able to depend upon the government, who they pay for, to show some kind of concern for their well-being.

It’s an ugly, unrelenting, powerfully negative cycle that we have to admit to and change before any progress can be made with race relations.

When I learned computers one of the first lessons was the function of the shift key. If the computer timed out, touching the shift key woke it up. It didn’t do anything to what you had been working on; it just put you back in the same place.

Now, we need a key that does something. We not only need to be awakened, we need to do something. What we really need is the space key. The space key moves us forward. We need to move forward. We need to bring understanding. We need to bring change.

So before we have a full-fledged eruption, I’m calling for calm. It’s time for leadership. Let’s stop the marching. All it’s going to do is lead to violence – the addiction. Someone or some organization that doesn’t really want change is going to provoke it. Let’s be smarter than that this time. This fight is not in the physical realm. We are going to talk this through and this country is going to change. It has no other choice. And, it knows it and wants to change. It just doesn’t know how and where to start. But, inciting violence now could postpone change another 10-20 years. Let’s not be manipulated!

When I was commissioned in the Army I pledged to defend this country against all enemies foreign and domestic. Violence and racism are domestic enemies and I’m going defend against them both. But, again that doesn’t mean we have to raise arms. We raise minds, we raise spirits, we raise peace, we raise love, we raise togetherness and we will win.

One of my favorite songs is America, The Beautiful by Ray Charles. Man, did he sing that song. My favorite verse is:

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

All this time I was thinking the meaning of shed his grace on thee was for God to bless America above all others.

That’s not what I think it means now.  I looked up the definition of grace and as a verb it means: to do honor or credit to (someone or something) by one’s presence.

Looking at it this way, I think about all the different races, ethnicities and religions that make up America. I think he was saying for us to honor our differences. Our ability to honor our differences is what makes and will keep us great.

To make this point even stronger, the next line says; “crown the hood with brotherhood from sea to shining sea”. So we are supposed to honor our differences and live as brothers and sisters from coast to coast. That is what will make us a stronger nation.

So let’s put the “G” back in race.  Then we will have “GRACE”!