After the incident at my Alma Mater, I remained purposefully silent on my blog. That post was one of my most widely reaching posts, and I previously had decided that I was going to post personal blogs more often, but the events that have occurred since then have deterred me from doing so. After that event, my social media news feed was bombarded with strongly varying opinions, ambiguous news stories, highly romanticized and exaggerated information, and ultimately a tense and racially charged election season. I know that I personally shared information that after the fact people proved to be wrong, and I also shared information that was proven fact but people chose not to believe.
2016 was a trying year for minorities. We discovered the best and the worst in people, and many groups of us have decided to either unite with others, or retreat into our respective demographics. I discovered existing activists and watched new activists emerge. I also found that even through all of the conflict of the past year, the majority of us still have faith that our country is working towards equality and equity for all of its citizens. That being said, we as a country have a lot of work to do.
I really began to understand that our beautiful red, white, and blue country had flaws in the years after the 2001 terrorist attacks on September 11th. I was in middle school, and although we didn’t talk about it at home, at school I learned the significance of the event the next day. My way of trying to process it was to use an assignment in my computer class to explain how I felt about it. I found a CD of monk music among the resources our teacher gave us, and I did a slideshow of pictures I found on Google. There was a song on the album called “Prayer of the Children,” which I believe was written about children in second and third world countries of conflict, but I felt it was meaningful for the feelings my twelve-year-old mind was having. Of course, I was the weird kid who didn’t do a normal, fun video, and everyone was like “umm… that was depressing,” and stopped talking to me for a while.
But in my head, growing up in post-Columbine America, where school shootings went from a handful per decade to a handful per year with no signs of slowing down, an increase in known (and unknown) terrorist threats, and an uncertain economy, I wondered how much our prayers as children were heard. I wondered why it seemed as though children suffered at the hands of adults, and I began to understand that the Earth that we were to inherit was broken. In the years to follow, I learned that fear is a powerful tool, and as much as we could, we as a society could not succumb to this fear.
As much as I would love to say that people in my generation and those a few years older all came to the same conclusion as I did, 2016 was the biggest manifestation of our fears that I have seen yet. This fear did not come out of nowhere. It came from event after event, decade after decade of worries and doubts and exclusion. Fear has sent our country backwards, to where people are genuinely worried for the safety of themselves and their loved ones every day. But here’s the problem. I don’t think people realize that what they are experiencing is fear. Manifestations of negative biases like racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, microagressions, oppression, and so many others are rooted in the fear of others that are not like us. Denial of scientific facts and proven data are rooted in the fear of change. Crooked regulations on our health and economy are rooted in the fear of loss, whether it be loss of assets or otherwise. And unfortunately when we look to our news outlets and political leaders for security in our country and its stance as a world power among nations, we are met with sensational statements that border on truth and are laced with bias, which causes more fear.
The good and bad news is this: the fear that many of us are feeling has been dismantled by knowing that we are not alone in our fear. The difference is what we do with this information. We can be safe, hide in our homes, with our friends that we know and love. There is nothing wrong with this, if the people you surround yourself with are loving, compassionate, empathetic people. Those qualities are not fear driven. However, when we come together in our fear and our fears compound, they will eventually explode. We have to be careful that we recognize our fears and learn to conquer them. This will be an uncomfortable experience. That is inevitable. If you have ever seen someone who has a fear of insects or heights, you can see their discomfort. You can feel it. People of color experience this in stares and body language, words and actions.
But here’s the thing. If you look closely enough, most people are just like us. They are living here, working here, having families here, and that in and of itself is not a crime. The best part about this country is that we take the best of what makes us different, find common ground, and celebrate our unique contributions. There is nothing to fear in being different, because even in those who are similar we can find differences. And when we come to recognize that fear is just a feeling, and that it can be replaced by love, we will become a better nation.
Building of the Day:
National Museum of African American History and Culture
Washington, DC, United States
Freelon Group, Adjaye Associates, Davis Brody Bond