Don’t give up the flag
I carried the American flag Saturday morning as part of the George Floyd and Black Lives Matter tribute which preceded the opening of Germantown Avenue stores.
Several people commented that their initial reaction at seeing the American flag was a fear that I was a counterdemonstrator. This confirmed my long-held belief that righteous people have allowed the American flag to become a symbol of the far right. We need to take the flag back!
By failing to fly the flag, the average American, progressives, liberals, the left and far left have allowed the American flag to be expropriated as a tool and symbol of right-wing reactionaries. Our failure to act is our own fault and we must recognize this failure has been a dereliction of duty.
The men who landed at Omaha Beach did not die there so the right-wing crazies could use it as a symbol to project divisiveness and hate. The boys in Vietnam, though wrongly led by our government, fought for American ideals. It is we who are asserting American ideals.
I encourage everyone to fly the flag at your home and business. Take it to protests, demonstrations, gatherings. You may want to put a Black Lives Matter sign or flag near it.
This history of default began with the burning of the flag during the protests against the Vietnam war. America, take the flag back now. Use the flag to demonstrate the aspiration of American ideals. Do not allow the far right to co-opt what is rightfully the symbol of the hope of our American experiment in democracy for 244 years.
Fly it. Fly it proudly. It is our ideals that are the future of America. People around the world are joining in protest because they are just as angry that America has surrendered world leadership these past 3.5 years.
Freedom matters. America matters. Black lives matter. E Pluribus Unum.
Privileged have work to do
White America is waking up to see a system that benefits one group over another. Or to be clear, white America benefits at the sacrifice of people of color. As the painful videos reveal the brutality of police to black men and women, racial injustice pervades in other areas of our society as well.
Take the pandemic for example: more people of color are dying disproportionately from COVID-19 than white. One reason is more are overrepresented in front-line jobs leading to higher rates of exposure. Add to that the financial inequality of many of these jobs as well as lack of healthcare, living in poor air-quality neighborhoods and you have systemic racism.
Corporations are complicit in structural racism. One local example is SEPTA building a natural gas plant in Nicetown. A mostly minority, working class area that was additionally chosen to house a SEPTA bus depot. The location of this community also shares a portion of the Schuylkill expressway making for poor air quality. Did I mention the citizens of this neighborhood are among the highest amount of asthma sufferers in the city? Would we permit this in Chestnut Hill, I ask? SEPTA needs to recognize where we are now and not move forward with the proposed gas plant. Fossil fuels are so yesterday.
We who are privileged have much work to do. Now that we have awoken as a nation on this issue, let’s not go back to sleep.
Listening is learning
Like nearly everyone else I know, I’ve been thinking about recent events and how I should respond to them. I’ve written a letter to the editor, signed various petitions online, marched with POWER in center city, joined the Chestnut Hill Presbyterian Church event, and I also plan on going to Oxford Presbyterian and Janes Memorial for their Multi-faith Vigils for Black Lives.
But something is bothering me. My mind keeps going back to when I first met my husband, Pete, 41 years ago. The first thing he said to me was “Listen.” So here is what I’ve been thinking about today: Marching is not listening. Protesting is not listening. Signing petitions is not listening.
Raising your voice against injustice, while good, is not listening. Writing letters, while one of my favorite things to do, is not listening. Is each of these things easier than sitting down across the table from someone and having an actual conversation? Are they easier than having a face to face, honest, long, in-depth, perhaps gut-wrenching, emotional conversation?
I answer yes, they probably are. And while I have been to many seminars, workshops, training sessions, movie and book discussions, etc. on race relations, nothing has taught me more than talks with my African American husband. And that’s because he did the talking, and I did the listening.
If, in your daily life, you do not encounter people of another race, you may have to make the effort to meet someone you can talk to. Perhaps, while online you can chat with someone outside of your usual circle of friends and learn from them. Any way you can, reach out to someone who has experienced a totally different life than you have. And then listen to them. Because listening is learning. And learning may lead us all to a much better place