I started this journal to record my observations on COVID-19 and the lockdowns ordered in response to the pandemic. I’ve deliberately avoided enlarging my scope, but I can’t ignore the riots which broke out in cities across the the United States last Saturday.
This country’s racial history has been ugly and violent. Africans were brought here in chains during the colonial period, and slavery had became so well-established by the time of out independence that it was written into the Constitution. We fought a devastating civil war (don’t give me this crap about mercantilism or states rights being the true causes), and in its aftermath allowed Jim Crow laws and lynch mobs to suppress freedom. The legal justification for American apartheid was struck down in the two decades after World War II (most of it anyway; lynching didn’t become a federal crime until 2018), but the pestilence of racial discrimination and race-based violence continues.
I’ve had my head in the sand on this issue since I’ve been old enough to recognize the scope of the problem. I’ve been hoping our country’s race problems would go away without my active involvement, because I’ve been avoiding coming to terms with my own biases and fears.
After what happened two nights ago, I can’t ignore the problem any longer.
It’s not enough to “be a good person.” Being silent in the face of systemic racism allows that system to perpetuate itself.
I may not have directly contributed to systemic racism, but I’ve certainly benefited from it.
It’s a damn shame that it took a night of violence to rouse me from my stupor, but just as I can’t go back to my life before COVID-19, I can’t put my head back in the sand.
I don’t know how I’ll respond. I’ll probably start the way I always do, by educating myself, attend some talks and do a lot of listening. I’m going to take my time on this decision because I don’t know what I’m doing and don’t want to screw this up.
Seventy-eight days ago, I began a journey with an unknown destination. Today, I’m starting on another uncertain road. Conducting two journeys simultaneously might make for a clunky metaphor, but we all need to accept a little ugliness in our lives these days.