Do humans only ‘learn the hard way’? It sometimes seems that knowledge comes only with suffering. And of that we’ve had an abundance – outsized suffering shared globally, repercussions reaching into every corner of civilization, every corner of awareness. Covid-19, with its aggressive legions of tiny virions, has done something apparently no other force could have – awakened us from our willful slumber, awakened us to the fact that we are all one on this planet, and yet that we are not all equal. As the brunt of the virus has more greatly decimated the health and livelihoods of the world’s poorest, we cannot remain unaware of how gross disparities in income affect lives. We need to think about this, in one form or another, every day.
For White Americans, there has been another deeper awakening, this time to systemic racism and the injustice allowed to perdure for centuries for Black Americans. Perhaps there are a few Whites that can justifiably claim a level of wokeness; I doubt I myself can. But I am trying.
There is work to be done on every level of society, both global and local. Even if this moment of passion and rage passes, even if the virus finally quits, the work remains. How to restructure everything so that not only the earth itself, but every one of its inhabitants can flourish? How to insure entry for every human into the inner circle of security, opportunity, and happiness?
Humanitarian crises are in the front of everyone’s mind now. Some of the urgency of climate issues have paled. But we can’t let our efforts to reclaim the integrity of the biosphere slacken. Don’t forget that most of the hardest hit from environmental degradation are communities of color on the front lines of toxic waste dumps and polluting industries.
This is supposed to be America, the Beautiful, Home of the Free. But as R&B artist Miguel, in his gorgeous and provocative anthem “Now” (on my upcoming playlist), asks about where this country has been during the past few years, “Is that the look of freedom?”
On the bright side of all this is what we have learned and can now incorporate into our daily lives and our visions of the future. Less is more. Small is beautiful. A walk is meditative. Work done from home is as productive and more liberating. One doesn’t have to get in one’s car for every little thing. Gardening is restorative and home-cooking rocks. And we’ve discovered that we are more resilient and compassionate than we ever knew.
The world, our country, have been out of balance. And now, cataclysmic events have tossed us into a vast, hot crucible. Let’s rise up. Let’s heft this newly forged energy toward righting it. Let’s get to work building a saner, healthier, and more inclusive world. Let’s move from a country of Law & Order, to a nation of Freedom & Order. If not now, when?
Let’s move from a country of Law & Order, to a nation of Freedom & Order. If not now, when?
A few actions one might take:
Watch Ava DuVernay’s documentary: 13th. It will shock you, not so much with the strong images and powerful anthems, but rather with the devastating facts, presented by countless academics, that expose the corrupt collaboration between government and corporate power in the ongoing oppression of Black men via the profiteering of private prisons. (The link above is to Netflix and a 30 day trial if you don’t already have it.)
Watch This powerful interview with Harvard’s Dr. Cornel West (with Katie Halper and Matt Taibi of Rolling Stone) West covers an amazing amount of ground, from critiquing America’s top heavy power structure (hell bent on perpetuating itself), to the necessity of protest, to how humor and the arts can dislodge some of the heaviest barriers to change.
“America is such a profoundly anti-intellectual culture, so if you try out just the isms and the arguments you’ll only reach a small slice. Connect the insight, wisdom and the analysis with a humorous discourse and you can get beneath that.”
There are myriad ways to put your money and your time where your mouth is. Countless organizations exist to promote social justice. From education to health care to housing rights. Whatever your passion is, use that to find an organization that resonates and become an ally. Here are just a few suggestions that resonate with me:
Helping to get the vote out. One fast way: support Fair Fight the dynamic organization started by Stacey Abrams to restore fairness to the voting process.
Therapeutic support for Black women and girls, the ones who are so often left alone and unsupported with their grief and trauma: The Loveland Foundation.
If reproductive justice is one of your causes, The Brigid Alliance “makes choice possible” by covering expenses for disadvantaged women, a very large percentage of which are Black, unable to pay for travel from restricted states to out-of-state providers of abortion care. (Full disclosure, my daughter is Executive Director!) She also suggests Black Mamas Matter, helping Black mothers thrive before, during, and after pregnancy.
If it’s environmental justice that fuels your passion, as it does mine, the Sunrise Movement is a dynamic, youth-inspired, and multi-racial group at the forefront.
If you are, like me, a lover of the visual arts, here is a great list from Artnet Magazine of possible places to send your love and dough.
I have personally donated to the Black Lunch Table because it brings diverse groups of people together to discuss issues of racial justice and artistic expression. Plus they’re creating archives of Black artists, which are then added to Wikipedia.
And if you really want to know how our Black American brothers and sisters feel, check out my playlist. A New World From the Ashes.
And last but not least, watch the video by the brilliant writer/musician Daniel Glover, aka Childish Gambino, which kicks off my playlist. (He also wrote and starred in the TV series Atlanta.) Then head to my playlist!