The conversation needs to be held.
First and foremost, we must be able to talk about our history without people judging and hating. Will it be uncomfortable? Absolutely. But so is poverty, wrongful imprisonments due to racial profiling, discrimination, mass shootings, cop killings, police-involved murders of innocent people, mental illness, and lack of adequate military aftercare for our heroes. This is just a short list of the many things that are going wrong in our country.
Another troubling thing in our country is our division. This division is why we are so vulnerable to self-destruction. Our leaders are divided, rhetorically childish, and ignorant when speaking to the media. They set bad examples. If our leaders are acting the way they do, how do they expect citizens to act?
The 2016 election exposed what had been hidden behind laws: fascism, racism, discrimination, integration, disregard of women’s and LGBTQ rights. Laws had made people accept things, not because people wanted to accept them, but because laws changed and forced acceptance. This is where the conversation begins.
Laws changed, but hearts never did. Old systems are still in place and until they are replaced, we will have hate and division in America. It’s like what the Bible says about putting fresh wine into old wineskins or a piece of new cloth on an old garment: It won’t hold up.
Even now, we’ve yet to come together for a conversation. A Black woman has her perspective; a White woman has her perspective; a White man has his perspective, and a Black man has his perspective. We all see through our own lens.
I can speak from the Black man’s perspective because I am a Black man. My mother or sister will never know what it’s like to be me because they are women. They may have knowledge of what I went through, but they can never really know what it’s like to be a Black man. They can try to understand, but they will never feel what I feel as a Black man in America. Just as I’ll never know what it’s like to be a Black woman in America, and neither my mother, sister, or I will know what it’s like to be a White woman or White man in America — and vice versa.
We all have our opinions and perspectives. I try to imagine what it feels like to be White. I think Black people need to take into consideration that our White brothers and sisters who know our history are suffering just as much as we are. It has to be uncomfortable sometimes thinking about our past, but I want to tell my white brothers and sisters that there is no reason to feel any type of way about our history, period. None of you were there.
Our history is beautiful, just as much as cruel. I say that because if you know our history, you know that good fought against evil. Even in Africa, when Africans were selling other Africans, there were Europeans helping people avoid the slave ship. Even during the many wars in our country, all races banned together to triumph over the systems that were in play. Quakers and white families sacrificed careers, homes, property, family, as well as their lives, all throughout history to help put an end to the oppression of all people who were oppressed.
Our history in the United States is beautiful because people were struggling, fighting, living and dying for a cause. They were fighting for the next generation even though they knew they wouldn’t be alive to see the fruits of their labor. They fought for us. What happened to that soul of America? Why is everyone running from this conversation?
Political parties are selling out American people for temporary gains. We are falling for it election after election as if they have a magic wand to fix what only God can fix. Gun control, mental illness, hate, the opioid crisis are all wrapped up in one conversation. We have to go back to the root of the problem to see why this country grew away from leadership that is willing to fight and die for the future and not just live for the temporary pleasures.
Until this conversation is held and perspectives are acknowledged, until we all are understood, there will be no justice, peace, or unconditional love. There will always be hate and fear. There will be hate because of miseducation and lack of conversation, because of loneliness and isolation, because of the bullying and people turning a blind eye to oppression. There will be fear because everyone fears what they don’t understand. These are the reasons we need to have this conversation.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. The Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned. The work is lightly edited but has not been otherwise fact-checked.