May 25, 2022
With heavy hearts and minds we reflect on the two-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder and the more general realizations that 2020 lifted up for us. There were many other unjustified and unprovoked killings of Black and Brown people that year, as before and since. The year 2020 also increased our collective awareness of racialized outcomes impacting how people experience the Covid-19 pandemic, from the disparities in health treatment and outcomes, to processes revealing who is deemed “essential” and seemingly disposable. Amid the last few weeks we have collectively witnessed as a nation yet another clustering of mass shootings, from the racially motivated shooting that claimed 10 lives in Buffalo, New York in a predominantly Black community, to the heart wrenching shooting in Uvalde, Texas yesterday at an elementary school, which claimed 21 lives, including 19 children. Are we witnessing the legacy of our history in creating levels of separation among ourselves and violently enforcing them? Hurt people hurting people, causing more hurt people? What can we do as individuals to acknowledge, to heal, to the help spread more love instead of the hate and easy quick responses that result in deepening the illusion of our divide? I have spent a career trying to find ways to help ‘fix’ what is wrong with the world and have ultimately realized that the main thing that needed ‘fixing’ was myself. From internalized racism and unconscious bias to even believing that there were so many others that needed to be ‘fixed’ and I somehow had the answers. I am reminded of this poem, which the internet often attributes to an Unknown Monk: When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.
When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.
Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.
The manifestations of violent othering and racialized outcomes on systemic levels which we are collectively witnessing are all part of a larger more nuanced conversation. Individually, in ourselves, our communities, and our institutions, we need to examine and understand our history and how this legacy of othering shows up in us as individuals and in our institutions. Focus on what we can control. And take care of ourselves. Take the time to reflect and to heal, and encourage others to do the same.
Aisha Cornelius Edwards