Much progress in race relations has occurred in my lifetime. However there is a recurring theme in this country that remains a sad reminder of what still needs to change with regard to race and racism. I have observed over months how the Newtown murders were covered in the news and how other similar murders are covered when they involve people of color.
We have all suffered through far too many painful mass shooting in this country. However there is an additional element of emotional challenge for many people of color when such horrendous things occur. You probably know what I am going to say. Why is it when Black young people are killed in such high numbers there is not a public outcry that extends beyond their immediate neighborhood? Why is there no national outrage?
Some say that the difference is that mass shootings result in deaths all at one time and that makes them more egregious. My response is always the same. Black children may not be killed all at one time but they arekilled all the time. There were over 500 murders in Chicago last year and 62 were school age children. No public outrage. Granted the tender age of the children in the Newtown shootings warranted a particular outcry and I join in that but please don’t lose the point. Sadly the lack of a similar outcry is due in part to the “normalization” of the killing of Black people in this country. Usually the term “Black on Black crime”, is used to describe the normality of the killings, implying “oh that is just what they do.” The term “Black on Black crime” is indeed strange and diminishing. The tragedy in Newtown was not referred to as White on White crime even though most of the victims and the community they were from are White. It was considered what it was, a tragedy impacting very young children that merited a national discussion and a heartfelt reflection on the state of our children, the state of violence and the accessibility of guns. The daily murders in far too many Black communities does not evoke similar sentiments. Though all such crimes are inexcusable their victims and families deserve the same attention and concern.
I have a similar painful reaction when I see the national exposure given to kidnapped children. My natural inclination is to empathize with such a horrendous experience but there is always the part of me that wonders why, rarely if ever attention is drawn to a kidnapped child of color. Painfully I can only conclude that white children are seen to be more valuable than Black children. This is still a difficult pill for me to swallow.
I believe I have a right to be outraged by this sort of disparate treatment. In the past I have allowed myself, however unintentionally, to become embittered and suspicious by such occurrences which honestly are too numerous to mention. And if I avoided becoming embittered at the very least, I registered another slice of generalized anger in my psyche and directed at those who don’t have to navigate such experiences. Bitterness and suspicion have not served me well. Some time ago I concluded there had to be a better way.
The iconic human rights leaders that inspire me all have found a way to transmute or transform even harsher such experiences into a sort of spiritual strength. They found a way to walk on higher ground. King did this as did Mandela, Gandhi and others. In doing so they were able to have a more penetrating influence on the very conditions that created the disparities that created the pain or anger in the first place.
Gandhi is quoted as having stated the following:"I have learned through bitter experience the one supreme lesson to conserve my anger, and as heat conserved is transmuted into energy, even so our anger controlled can be transmuted into a power which can move the world."
As I looked closely at the lives of these men, I found that their “high ground” authentic and spiritual responses were such that they challenged the injustice while lifting everyone to higher ground. There’s was never to defeat or conquer the oppressor but rather to lift their consciousness and heal their hearts while at the same time bringing persistent attention to the unjust circumstances the perpetuated. These icons had somehow conquered and transformed their baser or more reactive instincts and thus were able to influence and move humanity across the globe. They were able to speak with a moral authority born of self-sacrifice and suffering.
Some time ago determined that if this is the course that is effective then this is the course I must pursue. I did not want to become a manifestation of the words uttered by Al Pacino in the movie “Scent of a Woman.” He said, “I’ve come to the crossroads in my life and I always knew what the right path was…without exception…I knew. But I never took it. Ya know why? “Cause it was too damn hard!
He’s right, at times “it is damn hard.” However early indications suggest it will allow me to have greater impact in making change that I have had to the present. That makes the road worth taking for me.