THE BLOG

How-To Cope When Social Justice Moves Backwards

07/18/2013 10:09 am 10:09:59 | Updated Sep 16, 2013

I am having a moment.

Trayvon Martin is dead, nothing can replace him in our lives, and (again) the American legal system - instead of color-blindness - was blindly stupid about race, racism and racial injustice. The Supreme Court has eviscerated the Civil Rights Act, inviting back Jim Crow-style election rigging.

My country willfully perpetuates prison apartheid, disproportionately jailing people of color, especially African-Americans. The incarceration statistics confirm that it is not even close to hyperbolic to believe our justice system is systematically not just.

Whatever the final outcome of so-called comprehensive immigration reform, the public discourse depresses me. On their side, virulent nativism and factually uninformed attacks on brown-skinned people. On our side, absent is a single major advocate for replacing the wall which separates us from Mexicans with the same no-wall which connects us with Canadians.

An entire political party, cobbled together with elitists, racists, sexists, militarists, corporate welfare recipients and, lest I forget, some thoughtful, caring people as well, has turned cold-bloodedly mean. What kind of congressperson (person?) votes for a feeding frenzy of food stamps for agribusiness and simultaneously against food stamps for the hungry?

What kind of society denies reality by denying access to reproductive rights for women? Whatever philosophically valid and/or scientifically ignorant views one may have about abortion, it is undeniable that the heartless alternative is an assured return to back alley doctors, coat hangers and more violence against women.

Political leaders hardly ever talk anymore about poverty, the invisible poor or America's underclass, let alone the implicit and explicit racism which Obama's election did not end. Nowadays, it seems the only politically proper classes to help are the middle class with rhetoric and the upper class with deeds.

No single political party has a stranglehold on bad behavior or bad ideas. Of course. But I'm fed up the fake moral equivalency given to plans to boost the powerful compared to dreams to help the downtrodden.

We can draw comfort from the nation's proud progress towards social and economic justice. Of course. But I anguish over the recent U-turns on the pot-holed path to even more progress.

In this moment, I cannot find my voice. Without a voice, when social justice feels like it is moving backwards, trust your friends to speak for you.

In this moment, we need to read each other's words - share each other's hearts - hear each other's silent screams. My friend Akaya opens a conversation for change with, "I am heartsick. My heart is sick. And I doubt that it will get well any time soon."

My head is too jumbled to haggle over this recommendation or that conclusion, this jury verdict or that unjust law. It's not a time for haggling. It's a time for hugging.

It's a time to petition, to demonstrate, to boycott, to vote, to donate, to write, to teach, to talk, to act as if our souls - and our friends - depended on it.