Zoom out. Thanks to the latest in pandemic meeting tools, we can suddenly see, in its simple, Hollywood-Squares-like grid, the literal and figurative differences in our backgrounds. Disparities are laid bare in an ugly bookcase, or none at all, for all to see.
Now, in a moment of clarity we face a full reckoning born in the midst of an unquiet lull. Unwanted invisibles are suddenly seen. In America, a deadly racism is now irrefutably visible to all with an internet connection. The entire world has seen the latest 8 minute and 36 second culmination of a 400 year-old original sin, joining hundreds of American cities in solidarity and outrage.
An idea whose time has been long in coming has arrived:
Any state, founded on racism or any other such gross inequalities must be shunned by the global community. Any state that must use force or chicanery to maintain such harmful, inhumane fictions should be made pariahs. There is no ‘too big to fail’ here, the people are bigger than any state that claims legitimacy primarily through its reliance on the monopoly of violence.
This then, in America particularly, must begin right now under the banner of Black Lives Matter. Much of the world has unfurled it in sympathy and solidarity, a shared nerve has been shredded. Beneath the shade of this overdue truth, other invisibles wait in the wings, for true justice is impartial, immense and inclusive. Battle has been joined, with new alliances coalescing, but wars are won one battle at a time, so here and now we must say: Black Lives Matter and mean it. This isn’t to say that others don’t or matter less, as some keep arguing, but rather to declare that right here, right now, this lone ugly hill, so long blighting our fractured union, must be taken. To paraphrase Churchill: It is the end of a long and ugly beginning.
It’s too early to say how this will all turn out but it’s not too early to declare your allegiances: Stand with all of the people and for justice, or ally with entities who insist on a politics of separation and hierarchy and believe in domination over persuasion.
Who still wants a world run by hook and crook and ‘domination’, enforced by endlessly evolving and proliferating assortments of military hardware and tactics? Who still wants a world of walls and cages and dislocations and atlases filled with trails of tears, ruined families and invisible graves?
Not I, for one and I’m certain that I’m not alone. So in America: we start by saying Black Lives Matter and then proving it, by remaking our systems and our very selves. Refund our communities by defunding paramilitary police forces. The very people who agitated for their ‘freedoms’ during shutdown, while heavily armed in public now tellingly align with a system that asserts, similarly armed, in the primacy of commerce over black communities. Obviate this protest/riot false dichotomy by eliminating its root cause: racial discrimination, with its concomitantly unequal distribution of basic dignities, social and economic opportunities, investment, incarceration and violent, suppressive enforcement tactics. If we can do that, what can’t we do? And if a nation can fight for its soul, why not the entire world?
Don’t look away now, or shrink from shame or let bitter memories poison each small sip of victory. More are awake now than I can ever remember in over 50 years and though we all have “miles to go before we sleep”, allies are appearing from places once considered enemy territory, if not unhelpfully neutral and more will come. The terrain has shifted. A cascade of peace and justice threatens to engulf us all.
I’ll leave off with a martial quote from my own upbringing, since I believe we’re on a war footing now, but one you can be proud to have fought on the right side of.
‘In victory, tighten your helmet.’ The Hagakure
Stay frosty, stay up, and I’ll see you in that place many of us scarcely dared dream was possible. Dare it. Dare it now.
Andrew Sano was born in Montreal Canada, raised near Seattle in the Pacific Northwest and has spent half of his life in the San Francisco Bay Area in Oakland.