Do you believe it’s possible for we Americans to live in harmony with one another? Do you believe we can create a new reality in which every one of us can claim that, on balance, our society works for us? Do you believe we can roam safely, securely, and freely in any American town, city, or state knowing that wherever we go we will be honored, respected, and welcomed by multitudes of fellow citizens we don’t otherwise know simply because we’ve embodied, as a society, the concept and meaning of namasté: I honor the place in you that is the same as it is in me?
I certainly do — and not because I’m a Pollyanna. And not because I refuse to acknowledge the reality we have already created in which the deleterious effects of racism and discrimination of all kinds are palpable to anyone paying attention to anyone other than themselves. I see the rise of domestic terrorism, the presence of political violence, and the threat of much more of all of it as part of American life in 2021. Be present. It is. I see quite clearly just how readily we Americans, still, de-humanize one another, willy-nilly, in an effort to justify erecting walls and denying freedoms. I see us harboring disdain for and committing acts of violence against people not like us — for whatever reasons we conjure. I see more than my share of depictions of our inhumanity in and on “the news” and embedded in so much “entertainment” even though I go out of my way to avoid it. I accept what is, I just desire something else. Many others, however, seem happy to keep things the way they are.
Some people are just violent criminals, they say. We must protect ourselves at all costs, they say. Lock your doors and lock ‘em up, they say. And throw away the key. It’s how things are. People are lazy. People cheat. But in other American circles, experiences are very different. For example, we promote restorative justice, an approach to criminal accountability that focuses on the experiences of victims and rehabilitation of the perpetrators in some American circles. In others, people from “disadvantaged” backgrounds get singled out for opportunities for better educations than the circumstances of their upbringings might otherwise present. All over our rich and diverse country, Black and other non-White Americans enjoy success at the highest levels of government, industry, education, entrepreneurship, activism — every sector that exists — by navigating and negotiating a gauntlet of decks of discrimination fully stacked against them in ways that those of us who don’t experience such barriers will never know. Those who prefer the status quo are the ones who say we had a Black president so please stop making everything about race.
I don’t say we have systemic racism in America because I’ve experienced it, I say we have systemic racism in America because I listen to people who have experienced it. Radical, I know.
But what if it really is all about race — and every other kind of discrimination that persists in our country today? What if this top-down view of racial equity and persistent discrimination by people who do not experience it is what stands in the way of all of us living in harmony with one another? I dare say it is. And what it is, is nothing more than the abject refusal by this boisterous, anti-democratic, militant, sizable minority of mostly White Americans, factually overrepresented in government to — say it with me — be compassionate.
In this case, to be compassionate means two things: to listen and to accommodate. It means listening to Native Americans and Blacks and everyone who does not identify as White. It means listening to those who are discriminated against for any reason. It means asking those who experience discrimination what is required for them to feel at-home in this society. It means, then, making those accommodations. It’s the simplest thing in the world, it literally creates more freedom for everybody, it costs nothing, it comes with a guarantee, and it’s the one thing we seem hell-bent on not ever doing at any cost for any reason particularly if it’s coming from a radical communist Democratic progressive leftist nut bar.
I don’t say we have systemic racism in America because I’ve experienced it, I say we have systemic racism in America because I listen to people who have experienced it. Radical, I know. I believe we have systemic racism in America because the cases have been made and the evidence is overwhelming. I support legislation that accommodates every one of these citizens and would-be citizens because I practice conscious politics, which means I believe every single one of us individuals is here on purpose for a purpose. I believe it is our collective responsibility to make room for everyone to find their way, to pursue their happiness — not my original idea.
Telling people their experiences aren’t their experiences is judgment. Telling people that because some people in their circumstances have succeeded means they, too, can succeed in the same way is judgment. Refusing to take responsibility, as a culture, for devaluing the lives of anyone is not only antithetical to conscious practice, it is antithetical to the premise of America as a country of laws and the promise of America that we are all seen as equal to one another, free within our laws to enjoy liberty and pursue happiness. Indeed, yes, for sure, it is all about race and discrimination if wide swaths of our population make the case that racism and discrimination are what’s preventing us from realizing our destiny.
Yes. I believe we can — and will — live in a multi-racial, multi-ethnic society that works for everyone because I believe that an old, dying consciousness, infused as it is with judgment, separation, and denial is being supplanted with one that’s infused with compassion, connection, and truth. But guess what? An America that works for everyone is not going to come on its own or because people who have thus far refused to be compassionate are going to suddenly behave differently. No, we’re going to have to be far more creative than that. And here’s a hint: It will not include resisting or fighting.