First, I want to say that I stand with the peaceful protesters.
Second, I condemn rioting, looting and vandalism.
Third, I value our police, first responders and law enforcement.
Finally, there is no place for racism in law enforcement. Equal justice under the law mandates equitable enforcement of the law.
I awoke at 5:57 AM today, a little less than 30 minutes after last night’s curfew in Los Angeles lifted. I had grown used to helicopters circling at the nearby park like clockwork at 11:30 PM each night. I admit that hearing the helicopters made me nervous. The noise pollution was my nightly reminder that COVID-19 was still out there, lurking, being transmitted by those not practicing social distancing. Last night, it was the helicopters hovering at 10 PM that got to me. Those were not patrolling the park. They were patrolling against the rioting and looting taking place. I have a friend who’s a citizen of another country and doing business in California. She’s currently living in Beverly Hills. I made it a point to check on her.
Before bed last night, I promised my mother I’d be in touch as soon as I woke up. It’s a quiet morning as I sip my coffee. However, the news is disquieting. Hundreds were arrested yesterday. Businesses in neighborhoods I love were destroyed, already crippled by the pandemic. Those yearning for justice who were peacefully and lawfully protesting, were overshadowed by opportunistic anarchists.
“The medium is the message” is a phrase coined by the Canadian communication thinker Marshall McLuhan. Last night, all many people heard and saw was the rioting and the looting, not the well-justified despair behind the protests. Protest is a legally protected form of communication. Looting and rioting are not. So many will write this off as “an urban problem”, a “race issue”–and put the news into convenient thought-oubliettes of their own making. They’ll write this off as one “incident” among many, not questioning or thinking about the systems and systemic injustices that cause and foment this type of behavior.
It’s hard in the face of such devastation to maintain nuanced thinking patterns. Right now, many Americans are tuned in or tuned out. Many are stuck in the familiar us-versus-them mentalities or “not my problem”. This morning, I read another unsettling article. Rural America has not reached the apex of it’s COVID-19 fight. Being a “small town girl” living in a city devastated by riots and looting, my heart hurts today.
We love to think in terms of conflict. We are taught that narrative is conflict–man versus man, man versus society, man versus self, man versus nature. One of the biggest issues we have is that we don’t agree what the “conflicts” are. It’s more than right-and-wrong and black-and-white. The type of problems we face are not solved by caped, masked heroes and feel-good soundbites.
We are habituated to think in terms of conflict. What if we started from a place of consensus? Instead of focusing on what we don’t agree on, can we clarify what we do?
Let’s start here:
Can we agree that everyone has the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” regardless of skin color?
Can we agree that public health threats affect all of us, directly or indirectly, rural or urban, young or old, well or not?
What can we agree on? In times of disagreement, we tear down. In times of agreement, we can build. We’re at the point where we need to re-build. A society divided against itself cannot stand. We need to stand up for each other now. If you haven’t done anything lately to heal race relations, take some time and do so today. I donated to the NAACP.
A little extra effort goes a long way. Yes, we’re social distancing. Yes, we’re wearing masks. Thank you. Please take a moment and do something for our health heroes and public health today. I choose to report my symptoms and social distancing to How We Feel app. Find something that’s do-able for you.
Please do something, even if it’s just listening, without judgement or prejudice, to someone’s pain, whether that person has been affected by racism or COVID-19 or both. We must take the time and make the effort to heal each other. The cures are better than the social and medical ills that affect us.