Today, as the country looks up to the sky to witness one of nature's wonders, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the very human issues of the past week. A number of people I know on social media have taken to posting things about Charlottesville and elsewhere with the message of "it's time to move on" or "just let it go."
I know this is a conversation that's difficult. I know many people like to pretend it's not about them, or it doesn't affect them. As I see it, there are two types of racism in this world. One is the active racism of people who honestly believe what they say. They think they're better than others because of the color of their skin, forgetting that the color of their blood- of all human blood- is the same red. This type of racism is not new and is not in the hearts of the majority of people, but it is suddenly louder in the US. It's been given a new voice, and a new sense of acceptance by the current Administration.
The second type of racism, however, is far more insidious. This is the racism found when people see or hear things and ignore it. It is a racism of complicity. Seeing statues erected to honor white superiority and asking to preserve them. Seeing voter laws changed to disenfranchise minorities and saying nothing to your leaders. Or seeing Nazi rallies and not condemning hate for what it is. Boston was a powerful example of what happens when people come out in support of tolerance and love. Hate is a powerful emotion, but so is love.
There are no easy solutions. I don't think showing up to shout down racists will work in the long run. I don't think protests and counter protests are the only answer, because it does continue the "us vs them" mentality adopted by the racist communities. I think back to my years teaching theatre. One of the things I love, especially about the arts, is the environment we fostered. Kids come to theatre often feeling outcast already. People of every race, socioeconomic background, and sexual preference. These kids worked together on shows, on plays, on building things together. They saw themselves as teammates, as friends. This is one possible long-term solution to combating racism. I wish we could go into communities where people are isolated and encourage them to work together with people of color. Send the racists into service through groups like the Peace Corps or USAID and have them help people in Africa, Asia, and other countries where perhaps these people start to realize they can fit in with others in a positive way. After all, racism is built on fear and ignorance, and both are combated through education and experience.
Every year, arts in education are being cut. When I left teaching, I'd already been asked to continue an afterschool theatre program with no pay for any of my extra time, despite it being more time and harder than my regular teaching job. The department was also told to go without funding entirely. Community service, while encouraged in some schools, is often a lip service term given to kids who'll find time to help a teacher decorate their classroom, instead of going somewhere and doing something that engages with a broader community. These are issues you can talk with your elected school board officials about. These are issues that have long-term consequences.
In the meantime, no, do not "let it go" and just try to forget what's going on around you. Speak up for what you believe in. Call out your leaders if they're not representing your values. And take the time to look at the world. This is a problem that's not going away anytime soon, and that needs to be talked about and addressed every day.
Give our children a better world than the one we live in.