Black Lives Matter

I, along with most people it seems, have been thinking a lot about racism lately for obvious reasons. Our cell phones have turned stories in a newspaper into videos of horror—I didn’t just read that someone in Minneapolis died during a police arrest, I saw the pictures of it actually happening to a man named George. Seeing it felt like a punch in my gut.

I was in high school and college in the 1960’s so I am familiar with the civil rights movement that occurred at that time. Here we are sixty years later and I do wonder if we have made any progress at all in that and many other ways that seem so self evidently beneficial to everyone. I guess that I am saying that the right thing to do sometimes seems so obvious that it is hard to imagine why people don’t do it, and especially with so much history that demonstrates the bad things that happen when you don’t.

The phrase Black Lives Matter seems to me to be a call for compassion—a call in the larger sense to value every life. I am completely behind that movement and that sentiment. Something else also comes to mind when I think about what happened to George and other black folks I’ve seen in the news. It has to do with fair play—what we often think of as a level playing field. Racism is to me at its heart, a cowardly effort to stack the deck in one’s own favor. 

As a kid, I played sports all through high school and into college. I loved the competition and the one thing that could ruin my love of a game was an opponent who cheated. I always felt that winning didn’t count if you rigged the system in order to do it. 

Unfortunately, we have drifted as a country into a philosophy that is too often guided by the idea that winning is everything. Our current administration in Washington seems to embrace that approach as they do everything they can to stack the justice department with judges and others who will insure things go their way. To me that’s like approaching a high school football game with the idea that paying off the referees so that they call penalties in your favor is part of how you win the game. It smells of fear and unwillingness to find out your own limitations and to learn and grow from that real world awareness. 

From my standpoint, if you don’t have the courage to play on a level playing field, then you shouldn’t be part of the game—or a policeman or woman with a gun—or a senator or president in Washington. And attempting to make rigging the game part of the game sets a model that will predictably encourage racism in all of it forms at every level of society. 

It seems to me that the whole idea of a democracy is fundamentally to create a level playing field for everyone so that each person can discover their own natural level of engagement. I think that’s a lot of the reason why people came to the U.S. in the first place and why they still do. They just want a fair shot at engaging in whatever calls out to them

Let’s get our house in order by establishing a level playing field for EVERYONE, expanding on what our founding fathers intended. We don’t all have to love each other in order to play fairly. And, at least in my experience, whether I won or lost a game, playing hard but fair on both sides typically led to respect—something a number of our police officers no longer command and something that our leaders in Washington do not typically inspire in our culture. What begins as respect often overcomes differences and turns into friendship. 

As has been pointed out lately, change isn’t just a call out to our leaders, but a commitment that each of us must make in our own practical, everyday lives. America is cheating—let’s keep calling it out when we see it, whether in ourselves or in others.

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