“Your silence gives consent.” – Plato
We each are thus responsible to actively NOT consent.
Intention and appropriate response. If our intention is to have a safe, inclusive, harmonious society then appropriate responses will entail not allowing space for bullying, intimidation, disrespect, shaming, and unjust violence. This means speaking out. It means holding family and friends accountable. At times it requires courage to intervene. None of this is comfortable. That said, if we’re truly working towards forming “a more perfect union” and ensuring “domestic tranquility” then each and every one of us must act accordingly, and do so without compromise every second of our lives. This is hard. It takes self and social awareness. It takes engaging, learning, and action. It becomes a way of being, which sometimes requires a personal shift. This is the essence of the conversation I’ll be having (yet again) with our kids. I don’t necessarily like these conversations. They don’t either, of course. Disgusting images and acts beg to be ignored. They’re hard to look at, particularly when they reflect part of you — your country, your society. It’s easier to get onto the next thing. But that’s what cowards do: ignore, turn a blind eye to harsh realities. In turn, they miss the opportunity to empathize, express compassion, learn, improve, and make things better. I’m not doing this. I’m not ignoring, nor am I allowing our kids to ignore. In fact, given my stage of life, level of influence, diverse community, and espoused values, I believe I haven’t done nearly enough over the years. As such, I feel these acts have resulted, somehow, from my inadequate action.
Having good values is not good enough. Continually expressing good values through appropriate action — this is better. It’s what’s called for. It’s what’s always been called for, yet especially now. As a society we’re not trending in a positive direction on many fronts, and what’s happened to black men over the past few months, what’s happened to them over generations, is simply not tolerable. This is a “No shit” statement if there ever was one, yet it’s still happening. It’s happening because it’s too easy, too normalized, too tolerated. If it’s not tolerable then let’s ALL make it not tolerable. This starts by holding yourself and others in your immediate sphere to account: not ignoring, but instead learning, empathizing, discussing, exploring better ways forward. Not engaging perpetuates, if not grows the space in which these horrid acts continue. Put more clearly: not engaging enables bullying, intimidation, disrespect, shaming, unjust violence and, yes, murder.
These words are harsh, certainly. Having a knee on your neck choking your breath away is more harsh. Being shot at and killed is more harsh… as are being threatened, shamed, unjustly arrested, beaten, and presumed guilty. In order to depart from this reality we must individually and collectively understand who we are, where we are, where we want to go, and how we’re going to get there — our intention and our appropriate response. My intention is to work towards forming “a more perfect union” and ensuring “domestic tranquility”… and given these ideals are codified as part our nation’s collective intention, I hope we’re ALL working towards these goals. I also hope we ALL hold the above truths as self-evident, as well as these truths: that all men and women are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. Intention and appropriate response. Let’s do the work.