As much of America, and more specifically black America, in recent weeks and months I’ve been internally torn apart over the killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice… and I could name thousands that have come before and since them. But I’ve also taken great pleasure in a bit of it too. I’m thoroughly enjoying the inconvenient, disruptive and uncomfortable nature of the way protests, commentary and imagery have shaken up our nation, forcing the “conversation” we need to have.
I’ve long been sick of how every time we have an event happen in this country that makes us uncomfortable — be it yet another senseless school shooting; another woman shamed for her sexuality, individuality or call for equality; hate speech or crimes against an LGBT person; or another unarmed black man is gunned down without cause or repercussion — we love to get on our soapboxes and use the phrase, “it’s time we had a conversation about (insert presumed issue here) in this country.”
If I never hear another person say that in my life it will be too much. I’m tired of it being time we had a conversation about something. I’m tired of it being incumbent on “this country” to get something right that it’s historically, continually and systematically gotten so very wrong. What the hell is it about this conversation that it’s apparently time for that is going to make any difference?
So when I say that I delight in “seeing and hearing the inconvenient, disruptive and uncomfortable nature of the way protests, commentary and imagery have shaken up our nation,” I truly mean it. I’m beyond excited to see people of all skin colors and backgrounds saying “enough is enough.” I’m thrilled to turn on the television and see people from all socio-economic statuses, regions, political affiliations and the like saying that trends in our culture have to begin greeting their end.
My hope for the future is that it doesn’t die down. Recently, on the cable news channel I now refuse to name, mention or share the ridiculousness of, one of their commentators addressed the protests in Ferguson and New York (and really throughout the nation) saying “it’ll be over by December 1st,” dismissing the truth of the protests’ message and passion of its voices.
I’m glad it’s inconvenient. The proverbial “conversation” is finally being had because it’s being forced in front of our faces. Day after day, week after week, people have continued to say “no more.” In our nation’s coffee shops and office buildings, at our water coolers and our watering holes, in our newsrooms and in our living rooms we are having conversations that are inconveniently introspective and enlightening. Inconvenience the idea that racism is not an issue with reality.
I’m glad you’re disrupted. I know it’s frustrating to have to sit on the highway for hours when there are protestors walking where people were only intended to drive. It’s disruptive. But it’s disturbing for a teenager to lie dead in the street for four and a half hours, without care or medical attention after being shot multiple times by a police officer who would later say he looked like a “demon.” And they say the demonization of black people and bodies isn’t real, that racism is over, because “the President’s black, so… racism: over.” Disrupt this fallacious thinking with the truth that until a person of color can be elected and that fact not be a part of the headline or narrative, we still have issues with race in America.
I’m glad we’re uncomfortable. Our collective comfort zone has been problematic for far too long. We need to be stirred out of ignoring our issues and face them head on, because we can never change what we are too afraid or too politically correct to address. Get uncomfortable for a moment and ask questions, make new choices, and engage in a little bit of growth America. Jon Stewart echoes years of people of color recently saying to white Americans: “You’re tired of hearing about it? Imagine how f—–g exhausting it is living it.”
Racism is far more than the America we see in “Selma,” or the segregation and the Civil Rights era’s white person’s use of the word “nigger.” It shows up everywhere privilege has a seat at the table. In our homes, in our neighborhoods, our jobs, social circles, but also in our thinking, our vernacular, and in our perspective of ourselves and one another.
I saw a protestor’s sign the other day that I know for sure wasn’t the first of its kind, but it resonated with me so profoundly this time: “Sorry for the inconvenience, we’re trying to change the world.”
May the conversations be verbose and loquacious. May they be powerful and plentiful. But may the demonstration of upset and need for change carry on and may they be as uncomfortable, as disruptive and as inconvenient as need be.