We’re coming to the end of yet another Black History Month and I’ve had to once again focus on the positives instead of the negative thoughts that always threaten to steal my joy during the one month of the year the U.S. chooses to celebrate “Black History” publicly.
A famous chant from the era of the Civil Rights Movement has been drumming in my head all month:
“No struggle, no progress! No struggle, no progress!”
It’s actually derived from an excerpt of a speech given by Frederick Douglass on August 3, 1867 called “West India Emancipation” in Canandaigua, New York:
“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”
Think about that. Is it true? Must we as human beings constantly remain in a state of contest if we are to advance as a society?
Must we remain locked in conflict with each other? Let’s consider the open conflicts that paper our headlines:
The Battle of the Sexes – which used to be limited to the tensions between heterosexual females and males and now has grown to include a full scale conflict encompassing all gendered identities. I’ve watched recent attacks on those who are classified as not being heteronormative and cried and raged at the vileness and hatred fueled by fear that is being directed at these individuals, our brothers and sister in humanity.
And of course women continue to struggle with the perception of being the “weaker sex”. Women are still treated as property or commodities in many cultures, even in the U.S. In some ways, it’s so subtle but it’s there. Does this sound familiar, “Who gives this woman to be married to this man?” And before you jump and scream about this, pause and think about whether you ever in those vows have heard the minister ask, “and who gives this man to be married to this woman?” How beautiful would it be if the families have both the bride and the groom(or to my earlier point, partners) to each other and pledged to nurture the union by accepting and embracing both within the larger family?
The Battle of the Races – This one is great because it is completely based upon a fiction.
“Fear the black man for he is a powerful and savage brute who will harm you.”
“Fear the black woman for she is an evil temptress who will steal your husbands’ desire away from you and corrupt your children.”
“Fear the Latinos for they shall over populate your communities and steal your good paying jobs.”
“Fear the Asians for they are a crafty and mystic bunch and they all know karate.”
“Fear the Jews for they are tricksters and will steal your money.”
And the list can go on and on, but the joke is on all of us because we all bleed red and there is only one true “race” of people on this planet. That we call ourselves civilized and advanced but still segregate ourselves according to outwardly visible, physical features blows my mind. And worse, we assign values to these groups according to these outwardly visible features. It’s incredible to me and utterly outrageous.
And my final observation for this piece is what I’ll call, The Battle of Nations. This battle isn’t so much over national pride as it is a battle for what is perceived to be finite resources. Take your pick: oil, water, food we still wage war with one another over things. We cloak it in religion or nationalism or whatever other justifications we need to rationalize aggressive action but when you boil it down, we fight over things, and control of things and people.
Let that stew for a minute…
My heart and my head want desperately to see us rise to the occasion and end these conflicts peaceably and in love, but that doesn’t make for good entertainment these days. Call me a hippie if it makes you feel better but I believe that humanity can and one day will rise above all of this pettiness and learn to press for progress not through conflict with each other, but instead turn that struggle toward the great unknown and strive to learn and explore this world, this universe, this existence that we are all so privileged to indulge in for 80 or so full rotations around the Sun.
~ Marta G.