Dear President Trump,
I have another thought experiment for us to try. Although I’d like to set it up so Black people were never enslaved, we need a different starting place to get us really thinking since the legacy of slavery’s poison has so fundamentally and insidiously shaped who we are as a nation. To this end, let’s imagine how different things would be here in America today if proper soul searching had been done by everyone who benefited from slavery when Black people were freed. What if white people had recognized their grievous mistake in enslaving Africans (and Natives) and vowed to right the wrong immediately, admitted that dehumanizing and other-izing people to justify oppressing and using them was a crime against humanity? What if practical reparations had been made right then and a humble truth and reconciliation process had taken place? Had these things happened and been done well there would have been no lynchings, no Jim Crow, no Ku Klux Klan, no crosses burned in front of Black people’s homes, no little girls killed in bombed churches, no “separate but equal,” no red-lining, no anti-miscegenation laws, no conditioning teaching white people to fear Black people, no systemic white privilege, no micro- and no macro-aggressions toward Black people, no nooses left in public spaces, no differential in accumulated wealth between whites and Blacks, no race-based health disparities, no chronic stress from living in a racist culture, no blighted inner cities, no gang violence and fighting each other for crumbs, no diminution of anyone’s humanity.
I’ve been thinking about this thought experiment for days and feel most of my life has been leading me to finally grapple overtly with this scourge of racism that has poisoned us collectively and me personally. I’ve been actively noticing my conditioned fear responses when I see Black men and my conditioned sense of superiority when I see Black women. I’ve been imagining responding to Black people as absolutely equal to me. I know intellectually they are and I am seeing more and more clearly how much work I have to do to get my body to catch up. I imagine you have some similar work to do so here is a blessing for us all as we stumble toward real equality:
May we be safe and just.
May we be happy together.
May we help each other be healthy and sane.
May our lives unfold and intersect with dignity and grace.