I honestly don’t envy anyone in the United States right now. As if a phenomenally botched coronavirus-response wasn’t bad enough. But I guess this is what happens after decades, nay centuries of internal division.
Wasn’t diversity supposed to be what is great about the US? Growing up, the only question that seemed to matter was “melting pot” vs “salad bowl”. In other words, it only seemed to matter how the diversity expressed itself, not if diversity was or should be a thing.
But I guess even then it was all a lie. Even then, all that talk about freedom, liberty and unalienable rights came with an unspoken asterisk attached to it. Because even then, you had better be white, or eat shit.
If even I, as a guy white as the winter’s snow who doesn’t even live in the US, can see this so clearly, then how inconceivably suffocating must it be to find yourself at the sharp end of the racism stick? It honestly boggles the mind. No, I don’t envy anyone in the United States right now.
I am seeing several things, though.
First, nobody should be surprised at this. Decades, even centuries of division, coupled with economic hardship and active suppression by the state – what else could anyone expect? Yes, not all police are bad. It is a few bad apples. But a few bad apples spoil the bunch. Especially if you just leave the bad apples in the basket and reflexively spout “all lives matter” instead. Yes, all lives should matter. But they demonstrably do not. That is why people are protesting.
Second, the division is not unintentional. A few years ago, I read an article on the history of racism in the United States. The gist of it basically was: Thanks to racism, the poor hated each other instead of organizing against the rich. Racism distracted from economic inequality. It seems not much has changed.
Third, racism concerns everyone. The US prides itself in being a free market, democratic society. Neither of these two things work with racism. This is an online blog post, not a textbook, so I will keep this short: Racism leads to unequal access to the market, which means there is no free market. Racism also curtails free and open deliberation in the public sphere, which means there is no democracy.
Fourth, solutions are simple, but not easy. Removing systemic racism requires societal, economic, and institutional change. Identifying the issues is not hard. Implementing them in a sustainable way is. Effective leadership is needed. Unfortunately, neither the racist nor the senile grandpa you can likely choose between in November will be up to the task.
Fifth, there is hope. Even in these trying times, actions of solidarity and empathy outweigh everything else. Peaceful evolution of the United States is still possible in spite, or even because of all the crises it faces right now. Crises such as these can either show the way into a better future or plunge a country into bloody revolution. You, the People, will decide.