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My Solutions For You: An Open Letter To My Comrades In #BlackLivesMatters | 2017

By David E. Kirkland

Don’t lose hope. We can’t lose hope. If we lose hope, we lose. Period. And if we lose, what reason is there for us to be here?

Dear Comrade:

I wanted to write you because I hear your heart. It beats at me with an urgency that refuses to wait.

But don’t lose hope. We can’t lose hope. If we lose hope, we lose. Period. And if we lose, what reason is there for us to be here?

Besides, that’s what they want. They want us to lose hope because they don’t want us to exist. And just as some see our lives as optional, many others see them as a threat to theirs. (Isn’t that what the Trump movement is really about?)

I tell you: as a rose wilts under the heavy heat of the summer sun, the sound of the morning will continue to echo a silence so severe that it mutes the songs of birds. It is in this quiet that we must stand together, even though we languish in great confusion, frustration, and trepidation. These are my solutions for you!

I know you are hurting because I am hurting too. Many don’t understand our pain, the depth and deep, deep terror of it, the grief or the perpetual paranoia we feel from the constant anticipation of an ever-looming death. That’s why we’ve become so practiced at holding onto things—things we cannot hold forever like sand passing through fingers or brothers and sons and fathers (and even sisters, mothers, and daughters too). Yet, we hold on anyhow with a grip so stingy as to express the abiding fear that we may never see them again. So we hold on so that we don’t have to surrender to Next Time (which we know doesn’t always come).

They won’t understand what it feels like to live in hoods designed to kill every part of you—your heart, your soul, your body, your ambition, your memory, and even your lineage. They won’t understand what it feels like to inherit schools that mimic prisons to cage your dreams. They will refuse to see you, and you will be invisible to them. And because of the heavy haze of contempt cast against your dark flesh, they will try to deny your right to exist.

I know you can’t make sense of all of this or all that’s happening and has happened over the past few days, months, years, decades, and even centuries. (The ridicule of our complaint is historic and runs deep.) You can’t make sense of it because the massacring of innocence (both Black and otherwise) is senseless, rooted in logics of perdition so fundamentally destructive to humanity that it has the power to eat planets and, perhaps most pressing, threaten lives.

Over the past few days, you have asked for answers to tough questions: “Where is God in all this?” “Will it ever end?” “How can I hold onto Love in a time of hate?” My response is simple: Let’s not cast our pearls among swine. Our faith is an asset and so is our patience. The night will end. It must end. So that morning can come. Love will be our thousand suns.

More concretely you’ve wanted to know: “How can we end police terror, the devaluing of Black life, and the destruction of the Black soul?” You’ve asked sincerely: “How can we make a broken nation finally whole,” and “how can we preserve innocence, set new normals and a course of fate where the brutalities of innocence are forever banished?” And yes, I’ve promised you solutions. Hence, I’ve given our crisis tremendous thought, and now I humbly submit to you a list of 11 things that we must demand/engage in order to fix our broken world. I do note, still, that no one person has all the answers. That includes me. Please take these thoughts as humble beginnings.

Let me begin my list of solutions with a preamble, of sorts, centered on where the hurt lies. I know that the reflex of our hurt is anger and that anger is hard to contain. I know that you want your fist to brag, for bullets to avenge your frustrations, for the debts of one life to be compensated with another life. I know that you are tempted to yield to the hate that burns hot within and against you, to turn it more deeply inward to alight your own soul, to twist the godly formation of your creation into its lesser, darker possibilities. I know you want to turn that hatred inside-out, point it at your enemies, and place fences around your heart so that it might be protected from those who wish you harm. But at some point, we must salvage the courage to put away violence which begins the vicious cycles of our demise: for hatred only begets hatred, and the harsh consequences borne of its allegiance feed death.

Some will lie to you by saying violence is courageous. However, it takes true, deep courage to deny the violent impulse so as to reason compassionately in a way that nurtures life. So I need you to know that violence won’t save us. It can only deepen our oppression; for the moment we choose violence, we become ensnared by it, and even if we win with it, we lose the promises of our freedom to the longing chains of vehemence. Then, in succumbing to violence (even if we win), we become the very thing we used violence to resist—instruments of destruction rather than creation, a force of oppression rather than liberation. Audrey Lorde puts this best: “You can’t dismantle the masters house with the master’s tools.” Violence won’t save us because you can’t kill weeds by planting more weeds. You must uproot them.

Then let’s get to the root of the matter. I know that you have been praying, marching, sitting in, shutting down freeways, and so on. Keep up the fight! It has a purpose. It has incredible promise. Now it deserves direction. Indeed, we have protested in the past and will continue to do so because our liberation requires a protest that is ongoing and relentless. Still, our true solutions are not behind us; they are ahead of us.

At its root, our current crisis is a crisis of compassion. This crisis is less episodic than it is systemic—though it is not only systemic. It is also deeply personal, bearing the heavy weight of social trauma and its associated consequences. It is also ideological, peculiar logics borne of our crippled world that live in our minds. That is, the crisis of compassion that we are facing is a manifestation of how we’ve been conditioned to think less compassionately and less humanely. To resolve this crisis, we must tackle the issues at the root of the crisis at multiple levels. Thus, our solutions must bold, creative, and courageous at personal, ideological, and systemic levels.

Personal Solutions

1. Collective and individual therapy. We must commit to a campaign of collective and individual therapy to respond to the wounds we bear. For each of us who are hurting and who hurt others needs healing because hurt people hurt people. Therefore we must admit to our pain so that we might respond to it more productively. In so doing, we must equally destigmatize mental and emotional health intervention and initiate collective pathways toward healing. This therapeutic approach to our movement must happen first in homes. It must also live more formally in structures such as faith institutions and schools. One cannot carry trauma in the soul and elide its effects. We cannot heal (ourselves and others) broken.

2. Mindfulness and meditation. Inequity is a great noise. There are few ways to imagine beyond it while we live, presently, in it. Thus we must, daily, find shelter in silence not only to calm us, but also to heighten our consciousness and deepen our sensitivities toward what lives around, within, and beyond us. Each of us must begin a daily routine of meditation. We can do this alone and/or in groups, but we must do it in a way that make sense to us individually. Families, faith institutions, and schools must also instill practices of meditation in their everyday habits. TV stations must broadcast breaks so that we might master the habit of breathing. Communities must carve out meditative spaces, where people can breathe and take refuge from the constancy of noise. In this stillness, might we find ourselves. Perhaps more, might we find that most elusive of states the soul transcends the body—Nirvana.

3. Positive support systems. We live in a society based on antagonism, disparate acts of criminalization and vilification of the darker masses. Too often, we fear the very people who live among us. And out of this dark place, we’ve fallen into an endless abyss of negativity. MLK has taught us, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.” Then, if darkness is negative, so light must be positive. We can help repair ourselves by helping others. Let’s commit each day to sharing at minimum five good words and five good deeds. This is a discipline of compassion. We should also, as we grow in our compassionate states, accentuate words and deeds with gestural expressions of our kindness—hugs, smiles, and other forms of enacted light that might pierce a seemingly impenetrable darkness. Our Light will lead us.

4. Truth and restoration (as opposed to reconciliation). To echo the sentiments of so many others, we must have courageous conversations in our homes and in our communities. At municipal, states, and national levels, we must demand that our governments and elected/appointed leaders convene forums for “truth and reconciliation,” using restorative approaches and circles as a function for deep dialogue. We must also demand apologies for each indignity we’ve endured. As part of this process, we must also genuinely grant forgiveness, and be willing to move beyond our past so that the cold jaws of bitterness will not bite us. This act of forgiveness is not for others; it is for us because forgiveness is one of the highest acts of self love.

Ideological Solutions

5. Counter-oppressive public education (for all students, and for majority students especially). In order to redress the consequences of systems of ideological injustice, we must promote as campaign of ideological justice, where we renew an importance to heightening our humanity through formal systems of education. With this, we must demand that formal education endorse curricula that critiques and disrupt hegemony and White privilege, White supremacy and the logics of western Eurocentrism (and all of its associated logics including racism, misogyny, patriarchy, xenophobia, colonialism, and so on.) Just as we wouldn’t allow students to finish school unable to read or write, why must we let students finish school unable to love or accept others? Thus, we must demand more from our schools. We must insist that the greater goals of education deal with fostering fully humanized citizens, sensitive to other humans—people who are fully responsive to how we might live with others in our world we share.

6. Public relations campaigns. Let us demand an ongoing public relations campaigns to promote awareness of and respect for differences.

7. Full-throated critique of faith-based institutions. We can’t pretend that faith institutions are innocent. Religion is directly responsible for the crisis of compassion in our world and the violence, hatred, and inequities that derive from it. Thus, part of our protest must be aimed at religious institutions until they denounce theologies of hatred and injustice. We must be willing to boycott them or create new, more just faith institutions based on ideals of love, equity, and justice.

8. Reshaping masculinity and the mindsets of men. We must acknowledge that our boys and men are hurting in ways that they are not socially permitted to express. As consequence, much of that hurt manifests in proclivities that, ultimately, hurt others. Therefore, we must demand space to (better) raise our sons (much like the space in which we raise our daughters—to love and to be sensitive, to nurture life and to find strength in vulnerability). We have to interrupt notions of maleness—chiefly the problematic gender binary not big enough to encapsulate all the possibilities of who and what boys and men can and school be. Then we men need to get it, be honest about our B.S., and do the hard work to evolve.

Structural Solutions

9. Dismantling capitalism. We must demand new economic and political systems of organization. Capitalism is fundamentally corrupt; thus, the current systems we live under are insufficient for meeting our desires for peace and justice, equity and life. Capitalism fuels terror and strife, injustice and inequity. It cheapens life as opposed to enriching it. It must go!

10. Uprooting racism from national, state, and local policies. We must demand the abolition of all racist policies. This means demanding that we rethink immigration policies that shrink God’s open borders. This means demanding an end to profiling policies from corporations to airports, and unfair lending and housing policies from New York to New Mexico. This also means demanding legalization of drugs and the decriminalization/destigmatization of their use. It means demanding a ban to death penalties, zero tolerance policies, features of health/welfare legislation that are fundamentally rooted in racism. The list can’t end here. We must listen experts by creating panels in every field of public policy to critically examine our laws for explicit and implicit biases.

11. Imagination consortium. Let us convene other kinds of thought panels, ones that might help us to reinvent our world. This panel must include our imagination leaders—committees of writers and other kinds of designers/artists/creators who might imagine a new world of possibility not based on heteronormative, Western, White, Eurocentric, hegemonic, imperialist, patriarchal models. Too often those who get to peddle policy lack imagination and the deep drive to imagine beyond perception. Thus, I strongly believe that artists and writers can invent, for us, new worlds because they do this all the time. Imagine a team of science fiction writers, for instance, imagining new worlds for us much like Tolkien invented Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings. My point is, here, that there are people gifted with imaginations that could breed endless utopias.

Of course, there are an array other structural solutions posited in other places. To the extent that they help us disrupt structures of oppression and reimagine the world that we live in, I am endorse them. Some of these include the 10-point platform initiated by Black Lives Matter. While my sense is that this 10-point platform only deals with symptoms of the problem forsaking, for now, its root causes, I think it must be taken up too, as it’s necessary to sometimes deal with symptoms immediately to stop the hemorrhaging while we work toward other solutions to heal the root. Regardless of what path change takes, we’ll need people on every front, working in areas that best fit them and their abilities. Our greatest struggle, perhaps, will be in tuning our efforts to a global harmony where we co-exist as one collective body reshaping the public will.

I know we can do this. I know that we must.

Sincerely yours,

David E. Kirkland


Originally posted July 12, 2016 on the Huffington Post



See more blogs from 2017

David Kirkland

Professor of English and Urban Education