aNewDomain — When I first started here, I thought I would write about existential issues. The plan was to write about death and relatedness, responsibility and freedom. Instead, I mostly write these days about race in America.
I’m bored with it.
I’m bored with my own moral outrage. I’m bored with the tired excuses we keep giving ourselves, too, like: If they burn down their own neighborhoods they deserve it. Or: If you don’t want to get arrested try not committing crimes.
The trouble here is, the issue keeps being relevant and keeps challenging us to do the most important work an existentialist can do, what Irvin Yalom calls “staring at the Sun.”
This is the idea that confrontation with the existential givens and especially with the fact of our own mortality is dangerous stuff. We can bravely face the fact that we will be snuffed out one day soon, but doing nothing but confronting that idea all day and all night will eventually hurt us. Just as staring at the Sun will make us blind, eventually.
So we have to keep in relation to the facts of the matter, face them bravely and face to face, but we also need to step away from doing so from time to time to preserve our basic sanity.
So I propose we have a week – do you think we can go a whole week? – in which we aren’t racist. I don’t mean just pretend there isn’t racism, we do that all the time.
I mean that we actually don’t hire people we know just because, that we make an effort to diversify our workforces, that we don’t stop and frisk young people of color, that we don’t call any football players thugs for talking trash, that we don’t wrongfully convict or charge-load anybody.
And we don’t tell our Asian friend she speaks English well, ignoring the possibility she might not actually be of any Asian nationality but of an Asian heritage two or six or 10 generations ago.
A one-week moratorium on racism. So no microaggressions i.e. touching your black friends’ hair without asking, calling people “well spoken” for no reason, asking what things are like “in your country,” crossing out the “black” in “black lives matter” signs and penning in “all,” that sort of thing. And, obviously, there will be no racial epithets, though most of us know not to do that anyway.
No questioning why “they” can say it but “we” can’t.
And the most important rule of all: Please, for one week, can we agree not to shoot any black people? Or disappear them, break their spines, beat them in the streets, mistake our pistols for TASERs or anything stupid and unnecessary like that?
It would be a bonus if we could not arrest anyone for breaking and entering in their own house after they’ve proven their identity, or in their own car in their own driveway because they look too poor to own their car. I mean, that all would be neat.
Do you all think we can pull this together, just for seven days in a row?
Maybe we can make it a tradition. Hang a sign outside the Supreme Court: Number of Days Since a Covertly Racist Violation of Anyone’s Civil Rights — 7. We could maybe earn a set of steak knives or, better yet, some justification for our moral superiority in dealing with nations with shitty civil rights records.
Come on, America. You can do it. We can do it. I have faith in us.
Let’s go for it. And then I promise I’ll write about something else for a change.
For aNewDomain, I’m Jason Dias.