Last month I unloaded my grief and frustration at our current pandemic on this page. Today, I have grief and frustration of a different kind. I am grief stricken and heartbroken over the continuing racism in this country which has led to more murder at the hands of those we trust to protect all citizens. I am frustrated by the responses of some people I know, and some I do not know. They are the folks who claim not to see color, who declare their discomfort at wearing a mask to protect those around them from an insidious, mysterious virus that is also killing people of color at a disproportionate rate.
I will not pretend to know all there is to know about racism. I don’t know even a fraction of what it is to be afraid to walk or jog or eat an ice cream cone or drive my car in traffic or any other normal, everyday task of life. But I do know that being afraid of doing those simple things is just wrong. I also know that it is wrong for large groups of people to be at a higher risk of infection with COVID-19 simply because of the color of their skin. And it is wrong to say you don’t see color and believe that makes you, “not a racist.” In fact, it is just the opposite.
This country has a long, complicated and ugly history when it comes to the treatment of people of color. That history must be acknowledged and recognized for what it is. And that begins first with, “seeing color.” We must see that which is in front of us. We must see that, while we should all be entitled to equal protection under the law, that simply is not the case for anyone who is not white. Surely this current pandemic has proven that to be true. And yet, there are those who will deny that truth and who will continue to move about their lives without wearing a mask, without concern for those around them, all in the name of freedom. Freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom to do whatever makes them comfortable.
But real freedom comes with responsibility. We are not free to yell, “fire,” in a crowded theater. We are not free to fly on an airplane without passing through security. We are not free to drive in our cars without wearing a seat belt. And we should not be free to treat some people as less than and deny them basic protections because of the color of their skin.
Yesterday morning on The Today Show, I watched an interview with Reverend Michael Curry, presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, and I found some comfort there. He stressed the importance of recognizing that all people are, “children of God.” Regardless of individual spiritual tradition, or no tradition, I believe his meaning is that each of us is linked together as members of the human family. He invoked the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “We must learn to live together as brothers and sisters or perish together as fools. The choice is chaos or community.” Bishop Curry said the way forward is through love and through working together for the good of each of us. And, he finished by showing his idea of a symbol for love. The symbol: a mask. He said, “I wear it to protect you, and you wear it to protect me. And when we do that, we all win.” I choose love. I choose community. I choose to wear a mask.
About Barbara Dab
Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant. She is the current Editor of The Jewish Observer of Nashville, and a former small business owner. Barbara loves writing, telling stories of real people and real events and most of all, talking to people all over the world. The Jewish Observer newspaper can be read online at www.jewishobservernashville.org .
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