So the question that these two men, who are circling each other in the parking lot, are really arguing about, ultimately, is how do you get enough white Americans to care? What strikes me to the core in this video is that both of these men are right, and both of them are wrong. The truth is that we know Americans pay attention to violence. Had there been no fires, had there been no looting, no physical confrontations with the police, these stories of police protests right now would have garnered maybe a few minutes on the local news cycle, but we wouldn’t see the wall-to-wall coverage that we’re seeing every day.
The other truth is that, the truth that the 31-year-old is grappling with. It’s that that quote-unquote violence is going to be used as an excuse not to sympathize with black struggle. That the communities who are already suffering in the end are going to suffer more when this is all over with.
“I have been involved in countless discussions among community leaders, mostly white, about the race-based gaps in Minnesota in education, health care, income, unemployment, and just about every other aspect of life. People express concern. People wonder about the causes and the cures. People rarely use the one phrase that is truly explanatory: a long history of systemic and pervasive racism in a state that likes to think of itself as progressive. That reality needs to be named before it can be addressed.” 05/28/2020
Asking certain people to stay home for the sake of society is absurd, because these are people society has never cared about. ‘‘Stay home so people won’t die’’ is a hell of a thing to say to those who are dying of hunger. I keep thinking about floods, and how only after the waters recede do the bodies of the drowned become visible.
Steven Johnson on the London Cholera Epidemic, which I excerpted as a discussion starter for my students:
“This is one of the ways that disease, and particularly epidemic disease, plays havoc with traditional histories. Most world-historic events — great military battles, political revolutions — are self-consciously historic to the participants living through them. They act knowing that their decisions will be chronicled and dissected for centuries to come. But epidemics create a kind of history from below: they can be world-changing, but the participants are almost inevitably ordinary folk, following their established routines, not thinking for a second about how their actions will be recorded for posterity. And of course, if they do recognize that they are living through a historical crisis, it’s often too late — because, like it or not, the primary way that ordinary people create this distinct genre of history is by dying.”
As you create your own documentation around this crisis, what do you think of Professor Johnson’s argument? Does it still hold in the 21st century, when we are so connected and when there’s plenty of sources of information?
There is a kind of uniform monotony in the fate of man. Our lives unfold according to ancient, unchangeable laws, according to an invariable and ancient rhythm. Our dreams are never realized and as soon as we see them betrayed we realize that the intensest joys of our life have nothing to do with reality. No sooner do we see them betrayed than we are consumed with regret for the time when they glowed within us. And in this succession of hopes and regrets our life slips by.