Two recent legal decisions in the U.S. have a great many of us struggling with fresh grief and great pain, with feeling like we and/or our neighbors are being discounted and unequal under the law. We're feeling that this country is listing heavily toward a fearful legal exclusion and dismissal of people, particularly the many known collectively as "people of color".
It may be democracy under the law, but it isn't a healthy democracy to have people so easily dismissed and disenfranchised and endangered. I see these decisions arising from many reactions, but most especially from the racialized War on Drugs and War on Terrorism and anti-immigration efforts which make racial profiling widely accepted and the demonization of poor people easy. A culture of fear makes us suspicious of one another, and more determined to defend ourselves, justifying aggression in the name of self-defense and denying people participation in governance. But a culture of fear is a poor basis for a healthy democracy, or real justice, or fulfilling the promises of all people being equal and treated so.
There are always setbacks, challenges, and defeats, failures, and yes, even mistakes, in all our lives. Answering fearful aggression with fearful aggression may feel better in the short term, but it creates more hate, more fear, more violence. When I'm furious with grief, I have to keep reminding myself: only love gets us past the hate and joining the haters means they've won some victory over my soul as well as in my community.
How do we keep going, working for a true and healthy democracy, a land of merciful justice, a place where love is so real, we actually value each other's differences?
But that does not mean we shouldn't gather, weep, protect one another, and organize again and again for the changes we need to make equality real, to create a merciful justice, to revitalize democracy so that tyranny of the majority and rule by fear cannot remove freedoms piece by piece. Presented with fresh evidence that racism is real and persistent, each and every day as well as in legal decisions, we have to hold and help one another along in bearing witness and bearing change, in building relationships and communities undoing racism and truly welcoming our diversity. There are lots of folks who do understand, who do love and cherish our diversity, and who are joining and continuing the work before us all.
And that is difficult work, demanding solidarity from those who know privileges from the current order, and care and compassion for one another lest hate and grief dissolve us completely.
So let us grieve. And let us keep organizing for the change we know needs to come.
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The NAACP LDF supports voting rights activists and legal defense for poor people.
As Solomon Burke so wisely observed, "none of us are free when one of us is chained."