Tarana Burke is bending the moral arc towards justice

Dear President Trump,

I just watched Tarana Burke’s TED talk. Ms. Burke started the Me Too movement 10 years ago and she offered a sobering analysis of where the movement is now and how incredibly far it is from its original intent, which was to foster empathy between survivors. She described being numb and exhausted, feeling as though she has nothing left emotionally to give. She was clear that much of this numb exhaustion has arisen in the wake of the backlash surrounding Me Too. She described how wrenching it’s been to see yet another man confirmed to the Supreme Court following credible allegations of sexual misconduct, to have a president who brags about assaulting women and mocks survivors to the delight of crowds at his rallies (you really are a low life, you know), and to have the movement hijacked by people who are more worried about the futures of men who are accused of perpetrating assault than the impact on survivors.

She really did look tired. And she sounded tired.

She also looked and sounded strong. And committed.

She spoke of the imperative of working towards a future when there is no question that the sanctity of everyone’s body is respected. She did an awesome job of calling out how problematic it is to view sexual assault and harassment through the narrow lens of individual bad actors rather than as a systemic set of issues revolving around power and privilege. She talked about how the moral arc of the universe may be bending towards justice, but reminded us that someone has to step up and do the bending, that it doesn’t just happen by itself. She talked about how trauma impedes growth, leads to stagnation, while movements lead to possibility and possibility leaves space for hope and connection. She told the story of her great-great grandfather who was born into slavery and who, after he was freed, walked from Georgia to South Carolina in search of his wife and children because he had to believe it was possible to find them (she didn’t say whether he found them – the belief in possibility was the point she was making).

Having spent much of the last week, month, year feeling numb, exhausted, and disillusioned (and very, very angry) I’m grateful to Ms. Burke for rallying my spirits.

May there come a time soon when we are all perfectly safe.
May there come a time soon when we are all free to pursue happiness.
May there come a time soon when each one’s health is as precious as can be.
May there come a time soon when we are all at peace with ourselves and one another.

Tracy Simpson

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