In 2014, in North Carolina, USA, a black teenage high school football player was found hanged by someone else’s belt, wearing someone else’s shoes. Who has his shoes? Whose belt was the weapon of his death? We don’t know, because the system declined to investigate. The police, the coronor, the whole apparatus agreed that it was suicide, plain and simple. He had gone out for a run after dark, something he did frequently being an athlete. He was allowed to play high school football again. His first game was tomorrow.
That’s what a lynching is, when society agrees to turn a blind eye to the suffering of their fellow human being. We say shame. We don’t say nevermore. And because we don’t say nevermore, it happens again, and again, and again. In Missouri. In New York City. Just like when we didn’t stop the bully in the schoolyard, we are not standing up to the bullies in the workplace, the nightclub, the elevator ride, the bathroom, who call someone a xeno. An other. A stranger. A non-human.
Because we are afraid. We feel guilty and we would rather not face that. Our ancestors did these same terrible things. Violence begets violence. We will be dealing with the aftermath of fossil fuels for a long time. We can be done with the aftermath of slavery in seven generations. If average reproductive age is 25, that’s one hundred seventy five years. It’s been a hundred fifty. We can rise in this generation. The millennials have to teach their children to look each other in the eye.
A pack communicates through eye contact. This is how we know we are a family, a tribe, a unit, equals. Silent communication is essential to survival, to avoid predators and/or stalk prey. Those who look each other in the eye must regard each other as part of the same pack. We are currently avoiding doing that. We are refusing to look people of color in the eye. Why? Because we are afraid.
We would like nothing better than to go and sin no more. But we cannot start the conversation because we cannot ask forgiveness. That is why we continue down this spiral toward isolationist oblivion. We cannot look our fellow human beings in the eye. White flight. Charter schools. Anything to avoid looking directly at the issue, which is that we fouled up royally in creating a caste system where none existed. Should have known better. Some venture capitalists saw an opportunity and they took it. We imported the third world and now we are neighbors. And because we don’t want to look, we never dismantle the caste system.
This is a unique and historic opportunity. We have all the ingredients of an amazing melting pot. What if we just put them together, finally? Grassroots integration. Get to know your neighbors. If they’re all white, now you know. Go outside the neighborhood. Make conversation with strangers. Pretend they’re white people. Say exactly what you would say if they were white people. You will make mistakes. It will be awkward and embarrassing. Make friends. You already know these people. They have been right next to you the whole time.
Do not be afraid.