The Mayor of Birmingham has declared a State of Emergency for our city, and so we are on a curfew from 7pm until 6am until further notice. I am okay with this; after the destruction caused by last night’s protests, I would rather have some restrictions in place if they can help maintain safety for everyone. I understand the deep seated rage, but I am so very sad at how it has been expressed. Violence solves nothing and only exacerbates an already volatile situation.
I went to the grocery store this afternoon, a stressful thing at best for me since the pandemic began. It felt even more frenetic than it did prior to the curfew being mandated. The store was swamped and people looked shell-shocked and uncomfortable as they passed through the isles. More empty shelves as people once again dealt with their fear by stocking up on essential items.
These are challenging times and people are having to reevaluate their thinking about so many issues, all while still reeling from the hard-hitting toll that COVID-19 has taken on society. It’s not easy; we are going to have to have difficult discussions with each other to flesh it all out. People who have always believed the world was one way may have to open their minds a bit to understand the inequities they never have had to face. It’s all too easy for those of us with white privilege who have never personally experienced racism to sweep the inequities of others under the proverbial rug and to pretend that ‘they’ are exaggerating. It’s human nature to shy away from anything that involves confrontation- especially cognitive dissonance within ourselves. It’s that very reason we are at this point today.
We can’t expect people who have been marginalized to continue to silently accept marginalization just to make ourselves feel comfortable; the world is not a ‘comfortable’ place right now and hasn’t been for a very long time. We all have to stand together against racism, against prejudice of all kinds- whether it makes us uncomfortable or not. Being silent on these issues is a statement of its own and I can’t be silent; I owe it to my students, and to my friends and colleagues.
I don’t know all of the answers, only that we have to face difficult truths in order to effect real and lasting change, challenging ourselves to develop empathy for those who live a different reality from us. Otherwise we are stuck in this horrible cycle of an egregious event followed by public outrage followed by battle fatigue that repeats and repeats while nothing changes.
My heart is heavy, as I know we are in for sad days filled with difficult dialogues. I only hope that we can finally break the cycle and move forward into the light of a new day where equality is the norm and not just a dream. To make it happen, we’re going to have to step out of our comfort zone and into the shoes of others, seeking understanding. I hope and pray that we can do that. My mother used to say that “things worth having were worth working for”…this is one of those things worth having.