Let healing begin, Neighbor.
Before I was even old enough to know, let alone understand the word injustice, I knew I wanted meanness and suffering to end. It didn’t matter if it was a squabble among my childhood playmates on the North Carolina cul-de-sac where my family home stood, a fight between my parents, the starving and stray feline who showed up on my doorstep night after night begging attention and a scrap of food so she could feed her own babies, or a dog yelping as his master kicked him to instill obedience.
I literally felt the sting of injustice in every unjust life event.
At such a tender age, I also couldn’t possibly understand the full meaning of healing, either. Yet I knew the joy of laughter among friends, saw the warmth on my parents’ faces as they embraced, heard that mama kitty’s purr and that canine’s nuzzle as I patted their furry bodies.
I literally felt the joy of healing in every kind and just life event.
I didn’t really understand injustice or healing when a group of young black men locked arms and refused me passage in my high school hallway, as they taunted me, groped me with their eyes and made Cat-Calls men of all means and races have been known to make. Heart racing, embarrassed, and powerlessly terrified, I reversed direction and found another route.
Nor did I understand injustice or healing when, also as a high-schooler, a white male asked me to go for a walk one otherwise cool and refreshing night, and then raped me behind a wall of hedges on a downtown street. Blood spattering my favorite white dress and crusting on my legs, I returned home riddled with guilt, shame, and also feeling powerlessly terrified.
A few years back, a human resource director called me in for a meeting in response to questions I had asked my supervisor who was refusing to pay employees for State and Federally mandated tasks we had to fulfill. This man verbally berated me, first saying, “The problem with you is you have entitlement issues.” I finally understood his underlying issue with me when he spat at me, “The problem with you is that you like to dominate.” Clearly, he wanted to put me in my rightful place. Submissive female.
A few months ago, an all-women group’s leader asked me to stop attending the meetings she’d invited me to, saying “When I look at you, you’re so feminine, but you act so masculine!” In that moment, I realized just how far her “Women will rise!” theme was going. Translated, women will dominate.
Talk about identity crisis, Neighbor. Here I am, a 5’2″ female who is basically being told by a man I’m not feminine enough and by a female that I’m too masculine.
The truth is: They couldn’t put me in the boxes they had created for labeling people. I don’t want to dominate anyone nor be expected to be submissive.
Oppression exists in nearly every aspect of our lives: Race. Religion. Gender.
There is NOTHING, and I repeat, NOTHING, that is just or fair about any of that.
I have heard many times in the past few weeks “We are in the same place we’ve always been,” with regard to uprisings following George Floyd’s tragic death. This is a statement I hear about every form of tragedy, trial, and tribulation for which individuals have yet found a way to resolve the conflicts that comprise their personal grief and heartache.
This is what I know for sure, Neighbor: We are not in the exact same place we were last month or five decades ago. Everyone has the legal right to vote, the right to choose where they want to sit on a bus and to call Home. Though they can be tricky to navigate, discrimination laws are in place. As Humans, we are changing in some form every single day. We are moving and learning and hopefully growing personally and culturally. Though the changes may feel slow as molasses on a cold winter’s day, we have made significant strides in creating more equity among our global citizens than ever before.
Is it true that racism, sexism, gender bias, and oppression still exist in some form? Yes. Is it true that men and women of all races and genders are still trying to put us into some kind of box that makes them feel better, safer, or more in control? Yes. Is it true that people of all walks still face injustice? Yes. Is it also true that there are billions of cases we never hear about, where White Men are killed by excessive force and Black Men do good deeds, and [insert your whatever]? Yes.
The marques of injustice have existed across all time and space and Martin Luther King, Jr said it best: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
The marques of justice have also existed across all time and space and MLK said it best: “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.” “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Hate begets hate. Healing begets healing.
What the world needs now is healing, Neighbor, not to deny injustice or wrongs, but to find resolution in them, peaceful resolution.
Please let us come together as MLK would want us to, to continue to understand one another’s needs, for when we have ALL of the information, not just one or some skewed side of it, we are better able to create solutions for positive change. Please let us find balance by shining a light on the progress we have made and on honoring the work we still want and need to do in all areas of injustice.
And please, please, please, let us stop tearing each other down with words and brawn, pitting White against Black, America against China, Female against Male, [insert your whatever] and trying to put any one Being into a box.
What the world needs now is Healing, Neighbor, and I believe that loving thy neighbor in spite of our differences–as every historic peacemaker has promoted–will help us create something even better and brighter, a marque of justice, one where all lives–HUMAN LIVES–matter.