How Did We Get Here?
Imagine an estranged child running away from his abusive parents. Imagine the hardships that have shaped his perspective. Imagine the determination it took to separate from the pain of the known to the unfamiliar.
He grows up asserting he will never perpetuate the same offenses. In fact, not only will he never practice these injustices, he will not let those around him operate in that way, or so he says. He settles into his own, has a family, but soon enough he finds himself replicating his childhood.
He knows he didn’t want to. He keeps saying he’s different from his parents because he wants to be, but his children beg to differ. They go to bed decorated in bruises, stomachs shriveled with neglect. He manipulates his friends, stealing their joy with biting criticisms and elevating his desires first.
He has so deceived himself with all of his good intentions that he stopped evaluating his actions. His children and friends, so battered by the disparity between his fixation on his goals and his actual achievement of them in daily life, are desperate to shake him awake. Some are so disenfranchised that they adamantly partner in his delusional assertions that because he has set lofty goals it means that he has reached them, it is somehow a salve to the gnawing chasm between their expectations and reality.
This allegory is manifested in the basic framework of this country, a country that has not provided liberty and justice for all, from the courts to education, down to the family, a basic building block of a community.
We should love what our country could be, not everything it does. Most have dangerously adopted the latter view, so dangerously adopted it that a 26-year-old Black woman can be murdered in her bed with impunity, with no accountability for those wielding the power. Civil servants imbued with the responsibility to uphold values who - like the estranged man - say pledges about the value of life that are not paralleled while on duty.
How did we get here?
This is not an unfamiliar climate: 1619, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, Black Wall Street, Anti-Miscegenation laws, the War on Drugs, Mass Incarceration, Police Brutality, etc.
We are a country steeped in injustice, feeding ourselves platitudes about exceptionalism, exceptional ideals that were never employed. The ideals of this nation were never implemented in action.
Would you scoff at the estranged man who noticed he is repeating his parents’ offenses and seeks deliverance? Would you tear down and belittle his friends who cared enough for him to hold up a mirror to his reality? Tell me, would you insist that the man stay as he is, despite the imminent pain and violence inflicted upon his children, because that change would be inconvenient, costly even?
I’m not going to sit here and say that counseling an abusive man to restoration wouldn’t be confusing, frustrating, slow, costly, or uncomfortable, but that doesn’t remove its necessity.
I’m not going to sit here and say that systemic change in America wouldn’t be confusing, frustrating, slow, costly, or uncomfortable, but that doesn’t remove its necessity.
As Michael Clemons of Louisville Kentucky puts it, “if this verdict [regarding Breonna Taylor] tells us the officers did everything ‘by the book,’ it’s a perfect reason to shred the book and rewrite it.”
Because, while we are commanded to perform a love that builds up, anyone who works in construction knows that decay must be torn down before restoration can begin.