LettersLiberal Democracy in QuestionRace

Regarding the Violence in Charlotte

An open letter to those with misplaced priorities.

You’re not honest. You act like you’re so disgusted by protests and violence, but there’s something that disgusts you even more, and that’s admitting and addressing the scourge of racism that exists all throughout our cities and, quite possibly, in your own mind.

Otherwise, we wouldn’t be here. If your real concern is that people not be harmed, that our cities not descend into racially defined chaos, then you’d listen. You’d stop reacting against the movement trying to bring this evil to public attention. You’d stop telling them that their oppression is only in their heads. You’d stop coming up with counterslogans to delegitimate their desperate issues. And you’d take all that energy you put into condemning violence and protest and put it instead into addressing the horrific and unacceptable problems that have caused it to erupt.

Because that’s what you, in all your righteousness and good moral conscience, refuse to admit: that this kind of anger, this kind of chaos, does not happen for no reason. If the only response you have is to condemn the people acting out, then you’ve proven your own racism, for you think the fault lies in a race of people and not the conditions they’ve been forced to endure.

If we understand that we are seeing violence and destruction committed by human beings, then we can understand that what we’re seeing is what happens to humanity when it is cornered, demeaned, treated as lesser, treated as worthless, killed. And that’s what should horrify us: that our society has allowed human beings, people, to suffer this badly.

I am a fairly staunch advocate of nonviolence, to the point, I think, of inviting ridicule from many of my contemporaries and colleagues.

My heart dies a little every time I hear of a human life, of any race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, shape, size, age, nationality, or persuasion being violated or terminated. Every one of us is a living, vibrant subjectivity, an experience of sacred consciousness. Every act of violence against any person is a horror.

But I refuse to participate in the continual mystification, obfuscation of this desperate issue of our time. Over half a century on from the era of civil rights and Black Power, for people to be experiencing what they’re experiencing, protesting what they’re protesting, and all for the accident of their racial identity, should convince us that what they are telling us is real, that we haven’t dealt with the problem, that we have hard work to do and that we must do it with compassion and honesty. That would be an enlightened, non-racist society.

But you would rather see your country explode than do that. You would sooner see human lives, Black, white, or otherwise, suffer and die than be honest about what is causing all this misery to occur. The thing you treasure most is not peace. It’s the preservation of an oppressive world in which you feel comfortable, because you’re not affected.

Zachary Sunderman

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