Children see the world through a black and white lens, through which they perceive duality within the world, wherein good and evil/right and wrong dominate their conceptions. As we mature, we accept our erroneous way of thinking, recognizing the ambiguity and uncertainty of our lives and the world surrounding us. Good and evil are the notions of the developing, child mind, meant to be abandoned through nuance and critical analysis. Complex philosophy and anthropology have long espoused the necessity of taking on multiple perspectives, noting that we should never be too sure of anything, because others’ views are just as valid as our own. But, are they always?
In fostering multicultural empathy and harmony, this is an excellent and beneficent way of thinking. If you and I disagree on how to raise our children, if your rearing is more communal and mine is more individualistic, we can live harmoniously after agreeing to disagree. This has, purportedly, been the American way of life, the notion of ‘live and let live’. And, most of the time, it suggests the best and ideal form of approaching the world. But, because we’re still, to some extent, trapped in black and white thinking, we believe that it’s the only reasonable way of doing so.
The ancient greek philosopher, Aristotle, taught us to choose the golden mean when contemplating moral questions. In his doctrine on ethics, he argued against the existence of an absolute form of morality. So, while we’re used to dealing with explicitly stated rules meant to be generalized to every applicable scenario, Aristotle asserted that morality ought to be contextually dependent. To him, the rules were meant to be rules in most circumstances, but not in all of them. As, sometimes, certain moments call for an adaptation in our thinking, changes that resonate with us as much as their predecessors — our ordinary ways of being.
Thus, for the most part, I’d tell you that I agree with nuanced and empathic thinking and believe that each perspective is valid. For the most part, and on most days. But, on those rare others, I believe in good and evil. And, this just happens to be one of them. For, the current climate signifies an evil unperturbed by reason, one which I would, normally, suggest to intellectually engage with. In its lighter manifestations, racism and its activities ought to be cognitively challenged, with its guardians shown the same humanity we’d hope to experience ourselves. However, these are different times.
When protests devolve into lawlessness, we’re asking an enraged and condemned sector of the public to rise above, in essence, (even if we don’t know it) to be better than we are. As we stand on the sidelines, absorbed in our own myopia, we shame those who have no other recourse to their struggles, all while rejecting their cries for aid. White vigilantes obsessed with protecting their own neighborhoods and businesses are condemning a group that they’ve perpetually refused to help, that many on the outside have disavowed. So, what else did you expect? You want your flag recognized without reciprocating by acknowledging their tragedy. Who really is the bully? And, who isn’t exhibiting respect for human life?
Research on psychological trauma indicates that bystanders, or passive witnesses, are often hated more than the perpetrators. It’s as though, in the victims’ mind, she understands her abuser’s illness, but can’t find a way to justify your inactivity. If you’re the healthy one, and you sit idly by, then you must not think I’m worth it, so then why should I care about you or your livelihood when I’m suffering and terrified and can only conceive of one potentially effective response? When you don’t care, why should I?
Too many of the caucasians I know meet protesting with derision, whether it’s due to jealousy, a need for a sense of superiority, or some combination, I’m not sure. But, the reality is what it is. And, when protests are met with scorn, in addition to police brutality, how could the outcome be anything but? How can we assert the right to ask protestors to rise above? If rising above means allowing their people to continue to be mercilessly hunted and murdered while they sing songs and walk the streets, then they aren’t taking any moral high ground; fundamentally, they simply become the bystanders they disdain. Imagine that: seeing yourself as both victim and accomplice.
While acting against one’s community is a difficult endeavor, now is not the time to listen to each perspective. I want to be clear in noting that I’m not advocating for rioting or any other form of violence, but my efforts encompass an attempt to contribute to the painting of a picture for justice to ensue. For without justice, there’s no peace. And, if you look at the history of our stained souls, how could you ever believe that it could or would be otherwise?