Well, by the time I got your letter sent last night, our “end systemic racism now” sign had come completely unstuck from the window. Turns out that the fancy little “leave no trace” poster stick-ems don’t stay stuck to glass. This setback happened late enough last night that we decided to wait to rehang the sign, which we’ll do in a little while. I know it’s just a random tape failure in a random window on a random street in a random city and I shouldn’t read much of anything into it, but it is confounding and ironic that we can’t even get an antiracism sign to stay up for a day – at least not on the first try.
I will not, though, take it as a sign (as in portent) that the mission of creating a just, equitable society that values black peoples’ lives is a fool’s mission. I know likening this exceedingly trivial frustration to the life and death, day in and day out tragedy of virulent systemic racism and efforts to correct it risks me seeming completely tone deaf. I hope, though, that it’s obvious that I’m basically saying –
“of course the sign fell right down, of course we have to put it back up again (and again, as many times as it takes) – this is the nature of these things. The broader situation is not one where we can take an action and check the item off the list and pat ourselves on the back. Rather it will take sustained, focused antiracist efforts that build on the work of so many that came before us. It will take all of the commitment, courage, compassion, and creativity we can possibly muster together to realize and then maintain the beloved community we so desperately need.”
I know the sign and getting it hung is a lame analogy for the sweepingly huge work of ending systemic racism, but I needed a way of bringing it down to a scale I can understand, a way of grounding it.
We got the sign up and so far it’s staying up. Of course, despite our best efforts, it’s a little crooked, but we are going for ‘good enough’ messaging and beloved community building and maintaining. With regard to the sign – if someone wants to nit-pick about how level or not level it is then they are clearly missing the boat and are drifting out at sea where they should stay until they’re ready to be around people. And with regard to our halting steps towards realizing the beloved community – we absolutely need to hurry our asses up and stop waiting for “the right time” or until “enough” people are on board to enact antiracist legislation; we can’t hold out for perfection or we will never, ever get there. We also need to be clear that once we’ve created beloved communities (big and small), we must not take them for granted – they will require constant care and nurture to withstand (and recover from) the inevitable challenges and setbacks that our human natures will lead us to visit upon them.
In closing, I am fully aware of the despicable violence you had visited on the peaceful protesters gathered in Lafayette Square today. It was a craven show of force and a pathetic territoriality gambit. I am now waiting for the authorities to charge you with assault and battery as well as treason. I may have to wait until January 21st, 2021, but you are going to pay for this.
May we be safe from our current “POTUS.”
May we never, ever take democracy and decency for granted again.
May we hold fast to the moral courage and outrage we need to fuel us.
May we all finally accept that our POTUS is literally out to destroy us.