One of the things I’ve learned to do since Laura and I’ve both been working from home is to listen to music using my ear buds when she’s either teaching her class or in zoom meetings. Previously I wasn’t one to listen to music while working, but it turns out that it’s really helpful to have something that I’m in control of, that I can at least somewhat predict, and that’s rhythmic and just loud enough to make whatever statistical concept or course scheduling issue she’s discussing indecipherable and thereby not distracting. If I try to tune her out on my own, it really (really) doesn’t work – I get snagged over and over and my train of thought might as well be in Delaware heading to DC.
I have, however, found that ear worms are a definite downside as I’ve had a single line from a Bonobo song, The Keeper (album: Black Sands, Remixed), looping through my head on constant repeat for several days now. The song seems to be about someone who loves a woman but can’t live with her and is trying hard to leave her, but for me, the constant loop line has nothing to do with a rocky love story and everything to do with what’s going on in the country and the incredibly messed up history upon which our present rests. So here’s the line:
“‘Cause we can’t go on living this way”
When I first noticed it I just let it roll through (over and over) and honestly, until I decided to tell you about it, I didn’t check the rest of the lyrics and had no sense of what the song was actually about. Once I started paying actual attention to what this line means to me right now, I started thinking about how shitty the incrementalism is when it comes to all things justice, how easy it seems to be for way too many of us to be satisfied with the baby steps we’ve been eeking out for the last 60 to 70 years when it comes to race, gender, sexual orientation, and all the other vectors along which we oppress one another.
But you know, even these little baby steps are met with hostility if not outright aggression and so even though in many respects we’re ahead of where we were in the 1950s and 1960’s, the wealth and opportunity gaps and the health disparities for Blacks are nearly as pronounced now as they were then. Also, despite marriage equality, Laura and I know better than to be seen holding hands or being the least bit affectionate with one another outside the Seattle city limits – it’s just not safe. Plus, as is evident from every indicator, disparities in pay and leadership roles persist for women.
A couple of nights ago I read about a poll from the early 1960’s (in Jill Lepore’s These Truths) that found that 74% of Whites agreed with the statement “Negroes are moving too fast” while only 3% of Blacks did. That’s a rather stark difference, isn’t it? Not really a head scratcher though – more of a “hmm, I wonder what that tiny subset of Blacks was worried about?” which is readily answered with the sad reality that they were likely worried about the dangerous fallout that so often comes when those with privilege are challenged even a little bit.
It sure seems like it’s well past time for all of us to stop living this way and to figure out how the hell to come to terms with our racist, sexist, homophobic underpinnings and root them all out so we can come up with ways of being together that are livable for everyone. If we don’t, we seriously risk a completely untenable situation for everyone in the not too distant future.
May we all be safe to be.
May we all be willing to re-imagine our society.
May we all trust that we are brave and strong enough to be good to one another.
May we stop accepting half-measures and demand it all. Now.