Monday, June 08, 2020

The Two Diseases

I’ve been thinking a lot about a lot of things over this past couple of weeks. So much is going on as we all know. We are dealing with two diseases…Covid-19 and racism/police brutality. Covid-19 has cropped up over the last few months, but racism is as old as time. I’m at a loss for words about what to say and I’ve been going over and over it all in my head. It’s a tough time and one filled with anxiety.

I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch all of the George Floyd video…I just couldn’t. I watched a few seconds, but then I had to turn it off. It’s just too much…it’s all too much. I know all that I need to know…the police killed him right before the eyes of the world. The whole thing is rooted in racism and the disregard for black lives.

I’ve been heartened by all the huge protests across the country back home in the United States and around the world. There are people from all backgrounds. I have been reading a lot about the protests and have found that there have been deaths at the hands of police in other countries in addition to those in the United States. I have heard protestors outside of the United States say that they are out there to protest in solidarity with the United States and also this movement is highlighting the systemic racism in their own countries. I pray that real change happens worldwide.

Racism is ugly and it infects society around the world. I have felt its terrible sting back home in the United States. I’ve felt it here in the UK, when I’m followed around practically every store that I visit or when my so-called neighbors watch my every move with suspicion or when white women clutch their purses as I pass by them while I'm minding my own business. After I pass them sometimes, I'll glance back and they'll let go of their purses and they dangle and other non-black people pass by unscathed by constant suspicion.

One of my work colleagues, who is white, and I were recently discussing racism, in light of what has been happening with all of the protests. She said that at least the UK didn't have problems with racism. I told her that actually I've felt racism on both sides of the Atlantic and her mouth dropped open when I told her about some of the things that I've been through. It was like what I was saying didn't didn't fit the narrative of what she believed about the UK. She tried to reason that perhaps it was because the incidents happened outside of London. I told her that some did and some didn't. She was thoroughly shocked when I told her that I was followed around shops in London too and the whole nine yards. That's the thing, people like to think that racism happens in other places, but racism can and does happen globally. America definitely has its problems with racism, but it is not alone in

I’ve felt racism in a very pronounced way during a time in my life when I should have not had a care in the world, when I was on my honeymoon in 2006 in the Canary Islands. We were treated so badly by the hotel, the hotel restaurant host, the hotel staff, and the tour guides. I couldn't wait to leave. It broke my heart and for a while, it broke something within me. Racism is so tiring and crushing and exhausting and yes violent, very violent, as we see in cases of police brutality.

Whenever the crushing sorrow of racism just grinds me down and I become immobilized, I read a favorite quote from Toni Morrison that always snaps me back on course, even if only for a little while.

“The very serious function of racism … is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and so you spend 20 years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says that you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says that you have no kingdoms and so you dredge that up. None of that is necessary.”

- Toni Morrison

No comments: