After watching the events unfold, followed by reading a variety of ‘woke’/clever twitter posts and think-pieces by the usual suspects, my spectrum of thoughts ranged from “WTF” to “I’m not surprised.” My heart is heavy for the family and friends of Heather Heyer, State Troopers Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates and those directly impacted.
To quickly recap:
Hundreds of protesters descended upon Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday for a “Unite the Right” rally: a belated coming-out party for an emboldened white nationalist movement in the United States.
The rally was dispersed by police minutes after its scheduled start at noon, after clashes between rally-goers and counter-protesters, and after a torch-lit pre-rally march Friday night descended into violence.
But later that day, as rally-goers began a march and counter-protests continued, a reported Nazi sympathizer drove a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring 19. (Vox.com).
There are days when I want to write about a variety of different topics, ranging from a growing knowledge of wine (I can actually tell when its bad wine now) or the developing philanthropic models around Indy, but I would be remised if I didn’t use my platform to interject some thoughts. Black people are not a monolith, but in times like these, for those with a voice, silence simply will not do.
I remember spending a Summer on campus while in college. Aside from the people who braved those months with me and this dope survey of the 60’s course, it was a forgettable experience. Sure, I made the most of it mixing my “righteous with my ratchet” reading a variety of classic literature by day and turning squeezable bottles of liquor into the fountain of youth on Friday nights. We were broke college kids coming into our own sense of self-awareness at that time, so after seeing the pre-rally in Charlottesville on Friday I couldn’t help but think to myself:
No one is born hating others, but if you decided to travel across the country to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue on a Friday night wearing chinos, a collared shirt and sunglasses, while holding a tiki torch you need to be severely reprimanded for your hateful attitude and overall lame outlook. Fam, its Friday night, no self-respecting college kid should be able to exhibit that much hate heading into a weekend.
And of course, if you want to be obtuse and spin the conversation to those who protest based off of odd circumstances involving police—don’t. These individuals are practicing their right to public assembly based off historic systematic injustice, not the sudden realization that you and those who look like you are no longer the only voice being heard. Do you know how privileged you’ve got to be to feel oppressed, because you no longer have the social or legal backing to oppress others?
Am I surprised? No. As much as I respect the office of the President and accept the will of the American people, our society has serious flaws. America in all its complicated splendor is in a constant state of flux as our politics continually cloud our vision of what’s most important.
As angry as I am, as disillusioned as I’ve become, as disturbed as I am by people siding with Nazi sympathizers being given a “side”; I recognize our greatest strength is not based on our ideology, but in our cohesive sense of humanity. On our ability to vehemently disagree, but still get along. We are not as divided as our politics or our ideas suggest and here are two examples.
Backstory: I hadn’t been out of the Midwest prior to January 2015 until June. Crazy I know, but I was – how shall we say “blessed” to work in environments focused in Indianapolis and the entire state. I got an education few have seen from urban gardens in Gary to the serene views of the Ohio River from the Clifty Falls Inn outside of Madison. As an Indy native I thought I had seen all there was to see, but there are some community organizations and economic development partners who are doing some amazing work to push this city forward; however, I still knew getting away for a bit would be refreshing.
I’m on a late flight into New Orleans and I strike up a conversation with a guy sitting next to me. I’m generally a headphones in or reading a book kind of person, but he was a native of nearby Kenner, Louisiana and had the scoop on all things New Orleans. Within ten minutes I made the mistake of divulging my work for the City of Indianapolis, which prompted a variety of further questions about politics. He said he couldn’t trust Hillary and that now-President Trump was a crook. He told me he could not find the heart to vote for either Presidential candidate last year and as much as I wanted to deflate this argument I paused as he began to tell more of his story. He has a wife of 32 years and two kids (one of which is still trying to figure things out in college at the ripe old age of 23). He wants the best for them and works from home most days so he can take care of his daughter’s son. From what could and at times should have been a heated discussion on apathy and “but her emails” prompted a discussion about what we had in common, as opposed to what made us different (race, age, dialect – “bebe” is placed at the end of every sentence).
While eating at Kanters Deli off Fairfax in Los Angeles last month with one of my boys from elementary school we were both going through the past few years – you know the whole elevator routine. He moved out to Los Angeles for music and although cutthroat at times he’s making a way for not only himself, but his daughter as well. We talked about the things that truly mattered from being a father to forward progression. With all the hoopla surrounding the Trump administration on a daily basis, from fake news to “real news,” there was absolutely no discussion of the polarizing world of politics, just two friends rising above it.
Were these two mind-blowing experiences, not so much and although there are people I could have similar conversations with here, it gave me the opportunity to figuratively check my pulse. It’s easy to get lost in the back-and-forth as I want to stay aware, but at times its necessary to remember the reasons why being engaged is important. We can argue all day, but are we helping people? We can disagree, but what are we doing for those who can’t do for themselves? We can fight amongst those who agree with us, but how is that making a difference in the lives of those watching from the sidelines?
Charlottesville deserves our attention, but again – I’m not surprised; as sad as that sounds. There is no part of me that runs away from being aware, but reaffirming that common sense of humanity plays a vital role in preventing these terrible situations from happening.