Even If: disturbed ground and conditional hope

For my nephew, Thomas,, and for my friend, Sam, who from a young age have worked the issues of race.  They continue the work with their colleagues and friends.  I am proud of them.

 I have nothing original to say about where we are.  We all know where we are. Not very far down the road from the point at which Martin Luther King left us.

The laws have been changed long since even if some are openly subverted.

Millions of people were relieved when Barack Obama won the presidential election twice even if he has been careful not to show overly much support for the African-American community until now, lame duck. 

And many are disappointed with his caution:  symbol without substance is dead on arrival even if symbols without substance are the corrupt epidemic of our age and so clever with their communication.  And even if out of office, he sprints to reverse this caution.

 The African-American middle and upper middle classes have grown in number even if the economic recession has shrunk these groups.  The poor………worse off along with the entire 99%.

African Americans in prison out of all proportion to their number in the population.  Crimes of poverty stigmatized  and penalized in ways which do not touch the crimes of the rich even if there is growing recognition of the disparities in sentencing, crime definition and the mechanics of jury selection.

And the oligarchy – big business, big finance, and elected officials dependent on these for campaign money – who run the country is more entrenched than ever.  Even if the millionaire Clintons are being dragged to the left by Bernie Sanders in the current presidential elections.

Nevertheless, millions of Americans continue to deal across race lines without fuss and with affection and good faith.  In the work place.  On the sports field. In and around the country’s vast popular culture. And, in growing numbers, in marriage and domestic partnership.  Even if.

 And so, where are we? 

 We are at the EVEN IF place.   A place of disturbed ground where there is conditional hope.  A step forward from the NOWHERE place.

Flint, Michigan. The police shooting to kill.  The public schools a basket case in many big cities.  Vast differences between the health status of blacks and whites of all ages. 

Black lives continue not to matter as much as the lives of others.  Nor Hispanic lives.  Nor Arab lives. 

 Except the young are articulate and active.  They and we have the full-blooded example of the Student Nonviolent Co-ordinating Committee:  voter registration; participatory democracy; freedom schools; the emphasis on economic security; the full participation of women. Non-violence. 

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They and we have the astonishments of the lives of Frederick Douglas, MLK, and Malcolm X.  The sheer day-at-a-time one foot forward courage of their lives. And deaths.

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So this is where we are.   Moving slowly against huge even-if backlash.

And hoping for the spark from prejudice to empathy and even support in the hearts of as many of the majority as can see their way.   Many millions of Americans have seen this way even if it has cost them with their families and friends.

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Because racism – like all prejudice and like love – is a heart matter first and foremost and the heart has its reasons even if reason knows them not.


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Freedom School: mural at 31st Street and Girard Avenue, Philadelphia. 2002 by Parris Stancell for the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program to commemorate the founding of SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Co-ordinating Committee) in 1960 following a meeting held by Ella Baker. 

May their names live in memory and their example in our daily actions.

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