From Portside <[email protected]>
Subject America must Listen to its Wounds. They Will Tell Us Where to Look for Hope
Date June 1, 2020 3:42 AM
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[Only if the screams and tears and protests shake the very
conscience of this nation can we hope for a better society on the
other side of this] [[link removed]]

AMERICA MUST LISTEN TO ITS WOUNDS. THEY WILL TELL US WHERE TO LOOK
FOR HOPE   [[link removed]]

 

Reverend William Barber

The Guardian
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_ Only if the screams and tears and protests shake the very
conscience of this nation can we hope for a better society on the
other side of this _

The systemic racism that killed George Floyd has taken untold souls
from us for over 400 years.’, Christian Monterrosa/AP

 

Nproo one wants to see their community burn. But the fires burning in
Minneapolis, just like the fire burning in the spirits of so many
marginalized Americans today, are a natural response to the trauma
black communities have experienced, generation after generation.

No one wants the fires – even activists on the ground have said
this. But they have also shared how their non-violent pleas and
protests have gone unnoticed for years as the situation has gotten out
of hand. No one knows who and what is behind the violence, but we do
know that countless activists, grassroots leaders and preachers were
screaming non-violently long before now: “Change, America! Change,
Minneapolis!” Rather than listen, many of those in power saw even
their non-violent protest as an unwelcome development.

This is so often the case because many Americans struggle to imagine
that our government’s policies and its long train of abuses demand
radical transformation. Too many want to believe racism is merely
caused by a few bad actors. We often turn racism into a spectacle,
only considering the cruel legacy of racism when an egregious action
escalates outrage to this level. 

Black Americans have rarely been able to sustain such illusions.
Deadly racism is always with us, and not only through police
brutality. In the midst of the current pandemic we are painfully aware
that our families bear a disproportionate burden of Covid-19 deaths.
In some cities where racial data is available, we know that black
people are six times as likely to die from the virus as their white
counterparts. Even before Covid, large numbers of black Americans
died because of the racial disparities in healthcare, which are
systemic and not unintentional.

African Americans are three times more likely to die from particulate
air pollution than our fellow Americans. The percentage of black
children suffering from asthma is nearly double that of white people,
and the death rate is 10 times higher. This is but a reflection of
the fissures of inequality that run through every institution in our
public life, where the black wealth gap, education gap and healthcare
gap have persisted despite the civil rights movement, legal
desegregation and symbolic affirmative action. We understand that the
same mentality that will accept and defend the violence of armed
officers against unarmed black people will also send black, brown and
poor people into harm’s way during a pandemic in the name of
“liberty” and “the economy”. 

Many have cited Dr King to remind Americans that a riot is the
language of the unheard. But I have been reflecting on the eulogy he
offered when another man – a white man who came to Selma, Alabama,
to work for voting rights – was brutally murdered by racist
violence in 1965. At the funeral for James Reed, Dr King said it is
not enough to ask who killed the victim in a case like the murder of
George Floyd. Weak and unacceptable charges have been brought against
the officer whose knee choked George Floyd
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neck for three minutes after he went unconscious, but no charges have
been filed against the other officers who stood by and watched. Even
still, dealing with who did the killing is not all that justice
demands. Dr King said the question is not only who killed him, but
also what killed him? 

Those of us who have faced the lethal force of systemic racism have
also learned something else in the American story. We can be wounded
healers

The systemic racism that killed George Floyd has taken untold souls
from us for over 400 years. And it is killing the very possibility of
American democracy today. I join those screaming that this is all
screwed up, and it’s been screwed up far too long. But we are not
screwed as long we have the consciousness and humanity to know what is
right and wrong.

Those of us who have faced the lethal force of systemic racism have
also learned something else in the American story. We can be wounded
healers. We don’t have to be arbitrarily destructive. We can be
determined to never accept the destruction of our bodies and dreams by
any police, person or policy. We have learned that there is a force
more powerful. When hands that once picked cotton have joined together
with white hands and Native hands, brown hands and Asian hands, we
have been able to fundamentally reconstruct this democracy. Slavery
was abolished. Women did gain the right to vote. Labor did win a
40-hour work week and a minimum wage. The civil rights movement in the
face of lynching and shooting did expand voting rights to African
Americans. 

If we take time to listen to this nation’s wounds, they tell us
where to look for hope. The hope is in the mourning and the screams,
which make us want to rush from this place. There is a sense in which
right now we must refuse to be comforted too quickly. Only if these
screams and tears and protests shake the very conscience of this
nation –and until there is real political and judicial repentance
– can we hope for a better society on the other side of this. 

_William J Barber II is co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A
National Call for Moral Revival, which is mobilizing poor people and
their allies for a mass assembly and march on Washington in June 2020_

_Your support helps protect the Guardian’s independence and it means
we can keep delivering quality journalism that’s open for everyone
around the world. Every contribution, however big or small, is so
valuable for our future.
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