Thursday, April 30, 2015

Before You Talk About Baltimore... this open letter (especially if, like me, you're white):

..and read this historical overview of how urban black ghettos were born, and why the problem is so much bigger than we like to admit (worth reading for context and understanding no matter who you are):

I believe in an ethic of love, and central to such an ethic is attention to the neighbor in need, the neighbor who is crying out. It is about listening with empathy and compassion. As Julia Blount puts it in her open letter linked above,
If you are not listening, not exposing yourself to unfamiliar perspectives, not watching videos, not engaging in conversation, then you are perpetuating white privilege and white supremacy. It is exactly your ability to not hear, to ignore the situation, that is a mark of your privilege. People of color cannot turn away.
Sometimes, when people don't hear me, I resort to shouting. Sometimes, when the privileged don't listen or listen with only half an ear, the frustration of Black Americans who are suffering under oppressive and marginalizing conditions grows to a point where they find themselves doing the collective equivalent of shouting.

When they do, modern white America often invokes the nonviolence of Martin Luther King, Jr., in the attempt to chastise their black neighbors and urge them to quiet down--as if King's nonviolence were not about shouting, about disrupting the status quo, about becoming so loud that the established powers were forced to hear if not to listen.

King has been sanitized for White America in a way that doesn't do justice to his radical strategy of relentless nonviolent resistance. While he thought rioting was strategically unwise, he understood the motivations behind it. While he found rioting to violate the highly demanding ethic of love that he claimed as his own, it was not nearly as morally problematic as the social and legal and economic forces that drove communities to that breaking point where outrage turns into shattered glass.

What King proposed wasn't that the black community set aside its sense of injustice, its frustration, its impatience. What King proposed was a strategy for channeling all of that into a shout that could not be dismissed or ignored, that forced the privileged majority to reflect on their own moral failings rather than hide from them by pointing fingers at the people throwing rocks.

Before you talk about Baltimore, listen to these words by Martin Luther King:

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Synopsis on Riots

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Synopsis on Riots"I'm absolutely convinced that a riot merely intensifies the fears of the white community while relieving the guilt. And I feel that we must always work with an effective, powerful weapon and method that brings about tangible results. But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.... There must be a recognition on the part of everybody in this nation that America is still a racist country. Now however unpleasant that sounds, it is the truth. And we will never solve the problem of racism until there is a recognition of the fact that racism still stands at the center of so much of our nation and we must see racism for what it is. It is the nymph of an inferior people. It is the notion that one group has all of the knowledge, all of the insights, all of the purity, all of the work, all of the dignity. And another group is worthless, on a lower level of humanity, inferior. To put it in philosophical language, racism is not based on some empirical generalization which, after some studies, would come to conclusion that these people are behind because of environmental conditions. Racism is based on an ontological affirmation. It is the notion that the very being of a people is inferior. And their ultimate logic of racism is genocide... we've got to get rid of two or three myths that still pervade our nation. One is the myth of time. I'm sure you've heard this notion. It is the notion that only time can solve the problem of racial injustice. And I've heard it from many sincere people. They've said to the negro and/to his allies in the white community you should slow up, you're pushing things too fast, only time can solve the problem. And if you'll just be nice and patient and continue to pray, in a hundred or two hundred years the problem will work itself out. There is an answer to that myth. It is the time is neutral. It can be used either constructively or destructively....Somewhere we must come to see that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability, it comes through the tireless efforts and the persistent work of dedicated individuals who are willing to be co-workers with God and without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the primitive forces of social stagnation. And so we must always help time and realize that the time is always right to do right.Now there is another myth and that is the notion that legislation can't solve the problem that you've got to change the heart and naturally I believe in changing the heart..."-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Full video: synopsis:
Posted by Afrikkan Unification on Monday, April 27, 2015

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