I primarily write about race, politics, history, and education; sometimes, they’re one and the same. I had the opportunity to participate in Medium Day as part of the Our Human Family panel on Racial Equity, Allyship, And Inclusion: The Basics. We received some questions from audience members, a couple asking what provides us hope and what gives us despair in the current environment. Another asked if it feels like we’re making a difference. There wasn’t time to address these on the recorded panel at length, but I’d like to provide my response here.

That we’re in an era of racial strife seems obvious. The recent Montgomery Riverboat Brawl makes it clear we’re sitting on a powder keg where any incident could set things off. None of the participants woke up that morning looking to engage in a melee, but the mindset of some white people on a pontoon boat gave them the right to do as they pleased and attack the Black man attempting to get them to comply with the rules and allow a riverboat with 275 passengers to land in their designated spot. Once the Black man was attacked by several white people, and after they had been cursed at before the incident escalated to violence, Black people had had enough and responded forcefully.

Arrest warrants issued for 3 men in massive fight at Montgomery riverfront dock | CNN
Arrest warrants have been issued for three men involved in the chaotic brawl at a riverfront dock in Montgomery, Alabama, on Saturday that was captured on video and involved an array of punches, a chair to the head and several people in the water.

This happened to occur in Montgomery, but I suggest it could happen in most cities in America. If anyone had been carrying a gun or the incident hadn’t been captured on video, the result might have been different. At the time of this writing, four white perpetrators and a Black man wielding a folding chair were arrested.

I don’t dwell on despair, but it does occur in two areas. Writing as much about history as I do, I recognize that America has never been without racial strife, whether it be towards Native Americans, or the first Black enslaved people or indentured servants, Mexicans, and those populations that weren’t white until they were. America has had Slave Codes, enslavement, Black Codes, and Jim Crow. We currently have systemic racism and voter suppression constantly working against equality. Suppose we accept that we are on an arc bending toward justice. We can still acknowledge that we take steps backward along the way, and I believe we’re in one of those steps.

We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.
–Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I believe the justice system is one of those places we’re moving backward. The federal judiciary, including the Supreme Court, has been stacked with judges, some of whom’s only qualifications are their political views. Many of those on the District Courts are young and will be in place for a long time because of their lifetime appointments. My despair comes from knowing how long it will take to overcome the bias of the courts and that it may not happen in my lifetime.

The second source of occasional despair comes from the comments section on social media. I follow a blog where the regulars are highly educated people. They include attorneys, judges, and those throughout the legal profession, as well as business owners and people in law enforcement. The level of hatred espoused and their justification of racist beliefs is distressing, so I choose to expose myself to their opinion less, as they are gaining nothing from my participation.

I had false hope after the release of the George Floyd video, and people rose up worldwide to take to the streets in protest. It looked for a moment like there might be real change, civilian oversight of police forces, the end of qualified immunity, and proper accountability for police excesses and brutality. The hope came from the high percentage of white people who supported the cause. White people have always been a part of abolition movements; they helped found the NAACP, and many have actively resisted racism throughout history, but they never appeared to represent the majority.

For a moment, police backers and unions had no legitimate response, but they ultimately found their voice with an unrelenting attack on Black Lives Matter (BLM) and tying them to ANTIFA to the point where BLM and ANTIFA were one word—BLM/ANTIFA—though they had no relationship. The white supporters dwindled, and I question whether they will return after the next George Floyd or if their allyship was temporary.

Maybe I’m helping provide others hope or information so they’ll be better informed. I can always hope.

But I find hope in the strangest places, mainly on the individual level. I know people who seem to have no affinity for Black people show up with their Black grandchild, who they treat with love and affection. My next-door neighbor, a snowbird from Delaware who has worn his MAGA hat while working on his lawn, is respectful and friendly though we never talk politics. I’m hopeful we could have those discussions without escalating into a Montgomery situation.

I find hope in the engagement I have with Medium readers. I get a range of reactions from my stories, but even those who disagree generally do so respectfully. I communicate with a wide range of people daily and have a better feeling about race relations than from watching or reading the news.

To the person who asked if we feel we’re making a difference. Individuals tell me they’ve changed their thinking because of my writing. I’m sure I have on an individual level; a couple of my pieces have reached hundreds of thousands of viewers, so they are in the universe, and the Internet is forever. Maybe I’m helping provide others hope or information so they’ll be better informed. I can always hope.

I look at hope and despair as options; while I may find myself in either place based on immediate circumstances, it’s my choice where I reside, and I choose hope—wishing that my readers can do so as well.

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