“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere…” – Martin Luther King Jr.
The Tipping Point
As we have been dealing with the global pandemic of COVID-19, the levels of anger and frustration over systemic racism reached a fever pitch this week after the disturbing video of George Floyd’s life ebbing away was recorded and viewed by many around the world. It was sick and saddening to see one man exercise and express power over another man in such an inhumane way.
The pleas of “I can’t breathe..” were heart-wrenching as they fell on the deaf ears of those called to protect and serve, not to assault and dehumanize. Unfortunately, the outcome that George Floyd met on the streets of Minneapolis is rooted in origins that have left the outcry against injustice largely unheard. As I watched the descent of some protests into disturbing acts of violence, I could not help but wonder if they were reflective of hearts burning with the fire of anger as people have become choked with the fumes of injustice.
As it seems, we are at a tipping point. Between an origin and an outcome is a choice. The choices we make in the space between origins and outcomes can make all the difference. If the police officer made the choice to listen to George Floyd, the outcome would have been different. There are three choices that can help us overcome the huge odds stacked against us after years of repeated incidents that make us wonder, Will this ever change?
The choice to think differently
With the pandemic, it has become increasingly difficult to think straight, let alone think differently. With changes and loss happening on a plethora of levels, mental pressure is the underlying epidemic in this pandemic.
Without the right thinking playbook, we are left to be victims of a repeated past. The choice to think differently is at the heart of reaching a different outcome, no matter the origin. A different direction cannot be taken until a new mindset is assimilated. How then, do we start thinking differently to see a different outcome? For me, this means carrying the attitude of a learner, not a know-it-all when it comes to interacting with different people. Learning occurs where active compassionate listening and asking questions exist. The good news is that more and more people are now seeking to understand the issue of race. By thinking differently, we get to see clearly in turn.
The choice to see clearly
Do you recall a time you experienced a moment of clarity in your life? Moments of clarity come in different shapes and forms. Without clarity, change is impossible. Clarity comes when blind spots are removed, and what we need to recognize is in full view.
When I saw what happened to George Floyd, I was angry and appalled. Better to be angry than apathetic. Apathy is the result of becoming emotionally numb to the reality of our surroundings.
It is easy to choose ignorance over awareness. It requires that we do nothing and simply drift along in life, shrugging our shoulders, burying our heads in the sands of complacency, and turning a blind eye to the realities of life. This attitude leads to indifference, acceptance of the status quo, and, more tragically, a lack of action.
The choice to act responsibly
Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “… riots do not develop out of thin air. In the final analysis, the riot is the language of the unheard…. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.”
Do I support the protests? Yes, I do. But not when violence and vandalism accompany it. A protest is the megaphone of those who refuse to stay silent on things that are difficult but require attention. In light of the protests happening across the country, former President Barack Obama observed:
“If going forward, we can channel our justifiable anger into peaceful, sustained, and effective action, then this moment can be a real turning point in our nation’s long journey to live up to our highest ideals.”
President Obama pointed out a troika of qualities related to any action that produces progress. Peaceful. Sustained. Effective. I believe that these qualities working in tandem with each other, create the dynamic necessary to bring about much-needed change globally. I say globally because, besides racism, we are also living in a world surrounded by tribalism, terrorism, human trafficking, among other inhuman acts that are still happening in the middle of a health pandemic that has turned our world upside down. I can sum up acting responsibly with a key life principle that originated with Jesus Christ and has been aptly called, The Golden Rule, “So in everything do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” When you think about your surroundings, ask yourself, “How do I view and treat others who don’t look like me?”
Final thought: The quote at the beginning of this blog post continues to say “…We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” We are all affected by what is happening. And we can change the outcome and overcome the odds by choosing to think differently, see clearly, and act responsibly.
Keep on keeping on!