Yet another incident of a white person calling the police or security on a black person came to my attention today. In this instance, it was a man walking with his son in a stroller in D.C. #ParentingWhileBlack. I immediately thought of a situation that seemed relevant to this incredible barrage of circumstances in which white people call the police (or security) on a black person for no reason other than being black. One day I was walking into a pet food store (the pet food store shares a parking lot with a grocery store and a few other establishments – I had just come from the grocery store), and I noticed a baby (maybe 6 months old) sitting alone in his car seat in the back of the car. There was no adult in the car or nearby.
What would happen then? Might black lives be freed from the legacies of prejudice, fear, and hatred that our society places upon them? Might police officers be freed from seeing black men as dangerous and threatening? Might we all be able to see the humanity in each other?
In case you who missed it, here’s Rabbi Lerner’s talk at Muhammed Ali’s funeral. His vision is all the more relevant given the horrific killings in Orlando and the way it is being used to promote fear, hatred and Islamophobia. It has gone viral on social media and inspired over a million people already. If it inspires you as well, please read below for how to be an ally with Rabbi Lerner to help build the world he describes.
I have seen on social media and heard from friends the depth of fear that is permeating our society since the attacks in Paris. Seeing and hearing the stories of Parisians who were impacted by the attacks is bringing the violence home in a way that is similar to 9-11. The media is bringing the lives and sorrows of Parisians into our homes with interviews, photos and stories of their lives. This pierces the veil of security and safety in ways that the children washing up on the shores of Europe, starving children around the world and bodies in Beirut did not do. When our government is sending drones into communities, dropping bombs in far away lands, and supporting economic policies and sanctions that create daily suffering and death around the globe, it does not pierce our sense of safety because we can easily (and even realistically) tell ourselves this will not happen to us.
Requiring that people have photo ids to register to vote and then closing all the state offices that issue photo ids in black communities; having “history” books that refer to slaves as “workers”; being outraged at your “inconvenience” when Black Lives Matter take to the streets to demand justice when Black men and women are being gunned down on the street or end up “mysteriously” dead after a routine traffic stop; challenging affirmative action laws on the grounds that they “discriminate” against whites – these are just some of tactics and reactions of politicians, publishers, white people and police when trying to whitewash the legacy of slavery and discrimination that pervades our country. Our country was founded on and built upon the backs of African American slaves, Native Americans, Chinese and other people of color as well as white indentured servants. When the founders of our country were drafting the Constitution they ensured that only white, male property owners would have a say in the shaping of our country. All the people who worked to build this country were excluded from voting, holding office or participating in the building of the democracy in which we reside today. So it is no great surprise that the needs of those excluded were not at the forefront of their minds and thus not included.
You only have to read Justice Kennedy’s decision to see how much the opinion is written in language of spiritual progressives rather than traditional liberal values. Kennedy focuses on the ideals of love, dignity, and a spiritual connection between two people who choose to enter into the sanctity of marriage. The decision is grounded in higher values than rights (although he inevitably rules that the Constitution gives them the right to marry): it is grounded in spiritual values.
As with any movement, it’s important to glean wisdom and turn to those who are leaders in their own right for inspiration. The speakers in this series offered a profound sense of hope as well as real-world steps for action, which deeply resonated with the summit’s attendees.