The exercise of imagination is dangerous to those who profit from the way things are because it has the power to show that the way things are is not permanent, not universal, not necessary. Having that real though limited power to put established institutions into question, imaginative literature has also the responsibility of power. The storyteller is the truthteller.
We will not know our own injustice if we cannot imagine justice. We will not be free if we do not imagine freedom. We cannot demand that anyone try to attain justice and freedom who has not had a chance to imagine them as attainable.
- Ursula Le Guin, The Wave in the Mind
[We learned a lot about the Corrymeela community in Ireland when Pádraig Ó Tuama was with us last winter. Corrymeela has been posting “Prayers for Community in a Time of Pandemic” that are worth following. This prayer was one that we read together at a recent SSU community meeting]:
God of the scales held in her hands, God of the scales that fell from his eyes: we pray for those who have waited far too long for justice; and for those who have taken far too long to see that systems said to be balanced and blind work for some but not for all. May repentance come quick, not from a fear of being condemned, but in the hope of being set free from the seesaw of us–them, win–lose, and from the blindness of seeing only what we want to be true.
[From an article on trauma and racism]:
When people react with horror and surprise to racist and violent incidents, they may not be aware that their reaction might not translate well for those most directly affected.
I confess that even though I am not surprised on a macro level, and I know that hateful incidents are part of a pattern of systemic racism, my immediate, unfiltered reaction to a horrific incident is often a combination of surprise and outrage (e.g., “I can’t believe that this just happened!!”). I need to check myself because I’ve learned that the expression of surprise can unintentionally have the impact of invalidating another’s experience or give the impression that I believe these incidents are, in fact, isolated. For this reason, I’m working to restrain that gut reaction!
Black people aren’t surprised. They are not surprised about #TamirRice, #TrayvonMartin #AiyanaJones #EricGarner, #SandraBland, #AhmaudArbery, #BreonnaTaylor, #GeorgeFloyd, and countless others. BIPOC in Canada are not surprised about #MissingandMurderedIndigenousWomen, #ColtenBoushi, #ChantalMoore, #MachaurMadut, #RegisKorchinskiPaquet, and so on. For those who recognize the impact of systemic and structural racism, there is no surprise.
What can I do? Reflect on my actions, learn from mistakes, read more, learn more, acknowledge more, invite feedback, and listen to what BIPOC say they need and want. These are good things that anyone can and should be doing!
You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.
- Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”
[Another passage from our new collection of daily readings:]
The shift from denial of injustice to recognition of injustice can’t be unmade. What your eyes have seen they have seen. Once you see the injustice, you can never again in good faith deny the oppression and defend the oppressor. What was loyalty is now betrayal. From now on, if you don’t resist, you collude. But there is a middle ground between defense and attack, a ground of flexible resistance, a space opened for change. It is not an easy place to find or live in.
— Ursula Le Guin, The Wave in the Mind