“It’s not fair!” my kids would complain when they were young and one of us parents was setting a limit. Our little family watched a TV series together called “One Day at a Time” featuring a mom and her two girls. Mom often evoked that claim, “Life isn’t fair!”
Cindy and I used the assertion to quell the rebellion of our kids. But it offers no peace to all the people who are treated unjustly. Is it fine for life to be unfair?
If you and I feel comfortable then we can tolerate injustice more easily.
If an injustice benefits me or my friends, it’s hard to resist…
particularly if I don’t realize that my comfort comes from another person’s pain.
Cindy and I have been viewing a lot of movies, documentaries and programs about Black and Native Americans because we realized how ignorant we have been. This winter I watched a movie called “the Uncomfortable Truth.” It was a “light bulb” experience for me.
American wealth grew to a large extent from cotton. Growing cotton was immensely profitable for plantation owners and our southern society because of the free labor of enslaved people, Black people. These people were counted as property, like a herd, first bought, then raped, reproduced, and sold for more profit.
The slave-grown cotton became the material for northern industrial wealth drawn from making fabrics. That offered more wealth-building by the sale of clothing throughout the British colonial empire.
For hundreds of years our country has kept multitudes of Black people as slaves or servants, imprisoned or impoverished workers. Keeping Black people down offered a source of cheap or free labor for building the wealth of society, her institutions and privileged individuals. In a similar way, white America stole Native American peoples’ lands and all of its richness, dumping the surviving people (who we pretended were not people but savages) on reservations.
As I watched that movie, the Uncomfortable Truth, it hit me. This is systemic racism. It is not personal racism where some white people hurt or judge or kill Black people. That’s different and unjust also. But I was finally understanding ways our systems make wealth for some out of injustice and suffering for others. I benefit from injustice as does nearly every institution in America including our religious groups whose wealth comes from investments.
“Life is not fair,” rings through my mind as I learn about our hidden history. I no longer feel righteous or comfortable about it. God ignited a fire in my heart, a fire for justice, a fire that burned in Dr. Martin Luther King, whose birth we celebrate this month.
“Open your eyes,” Dr.King and our Maker call to you and me. Open your heart beyond your personal comforts and desires. Open your mind to the hidden history that might push you to work for justice for people who have been under the boot of America’s comfortable for centuries.
Perhaps you will want to ring a bell for justice this month. On Martin Luther King day, Monday, Jan. 18, at 6 p.m., people around Bennington will light a candle and go outdoors to ring a bell as a sign of their commitment to End White Silence. We are committing ourselves to learn our hidden history this year and speak up about injustice whenever we see it.
As a start, many of us will watch the powerful 30 minute movie about Vermont schools, ”I Came from Here!” https://vimeo.com/288449454 We’ll share a Zoom discussion with Angie Emmerson and me at 7 PM PM Monday the 18th. Watch the Banner for details.
Honor Dr King! Stand up with our Maker! Let justice ring!