Last week, I had to sit down and wonder about what had been going on in my city and across the nation.
It was in my silenced response to the actions of some young activists that gave me pause. Was it worth my time and voice to keep speaking up and out when the end goal was a few coins to be spent on the open market? Was the concentrated actions of a few at the expense of the many worth all the time invested over the past ten months?
A lot of my thoughts and questions were responded to by Jamala Rogers in her article on the #cutthecheck action. I let that sit with me and then read a very poignant response by John Chasnoff of The Police State Project that I hope will put a pause button on some of the future actions so that strategic minds can create a collective outcome.
Movement work, dismantling racism, confronting sexism, breaking systems, all this requires a collective focus and not an individualized approach.
It was also in wondering that it hit me how none of this is new.
There have been months and months that I told the young activists that they did not invent organizing, protesting, activism. They had the benefit of social media, but after sitting at the feet of Selma James of the Global Women's Strike, I was certain that this work was not the stuff of instant gratification.
Seasoned women and I have talked about the root causes of the segregation that is at the core of St. Louis, the infamous Delmar divide, the towns and gowns divisions among black people, the well-meaning fragility and control of some white activists, and the system that refuses to bend. We talked about the municipalities that could not afford to be alive and existed for the very purpose of segregation. Conversations included education and the deplorable learning environment that is the daily life of inner city students in districts like Normandy and St. Louis. Choice came up a lot in the thoughts, from choices we all made to sacrifice for our children to choices some people made to refuse to pick up a book.
After a few cups of coffee and discussion, it started to feel fatalistic, that we would not see movement or change in our lifetime. That the pendulum was not swinging toward fairness, equality, equity, and justice fast enough. Were we wrong for using our gifts and talents to try to better our people who only wanted a few more coins? Would our constant speaking up and out hurt our future consulting and career opportunities. Did any of it matter?
We wrestled as we sipped lattes and wondered what we could do.
The roots of what happened in Ferguson and Baltimore, Staten Island and Salt Lake City, Cleveland and Detroit are a deep as trees outside my balcony. Dismantling it would cause many to tumble, many to face themselves in the mirror and wonder about their role. The teachers who were paid by a system that failed to educate all the students, the municipal court judge who perhaps knew it was unfair to jail someone over a parking ticket but whose daughter needed braces, the "good" cop who turned a blind eye to the brutality of the others on the beat, the neighbors who were scared and called the police at the slightest appearance of someone they felt didn't belong there. The man and woman in the mirror was all of us.
This is going to be a long hot summer, a chance for revitalization and renewal, for the flowers to bloom and the soil to nurture itself for another season. I hope that the fertilization of hope, dialogue, honesty, justice, and fairness are what seeps down to the roots. I hope it is different. I hope for something new under the sun.