Long before anyone heard of social distancing, there was and still is racial distancing. This is a systemic, institutionalized pandemic in its own right that has lasted for generations.
While social distancing has only recently been in practice for a matter of months, it is proven to be highly effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19 while protecting the physical and economical health of individuals and the nation as a whole from far worse consequences.
In contrast, racial distancing has proven time and time again to tear down, devalue, dehumanize groups of people, weakening the moral health of our society.
Social distancing, correctly practiced in 2020 is for the protection and well-being of ALL people regardless of age, gender, race, socio-economic status, religion, ideology, etc. Part of what makes it so effective is that when it is implemented correctly, meaning each of us is not only looking out for self but also each other because we know what is at stake if we do not. The other piece is that we all have a common enemy in this pandemic because this enemy does not distinguish age, gender, race, socio-economic status, religion, ideology, etc when it attacks; we’re all equally vulnerable and we all want the same thing-to preserve life and our way of living.
Racial distancing, practiced over centuries; destroys, creates division and weakens societies. It’s impact is felt morally, economically and judicially just to name a few.
What’s most troubling is that a few months of social distancing among other practices like mask-wearing, temporary suspension of large public gatherings, etc was met by many with outrage, utter defiance, disregard for its seriousness and even some feeling that their basic rights were being infringed upon and the felt powerless in the moment. So they resisted, they stood in protest to reopen their states and cities and businesses all so they could get back to their daily lives.
Now let us pause right there. Imagine if you will, experiencing distancing of a different kind. One that starts from childhood; being withheld from opportunities in education, employment, access to capital, equal representation, the ability to use the same restroom or water fountain, eat at the same lunch counter, vote or ride in the front of the bus all because of the color of your skin, nothing else.
Now imagine living in that society where that distancing lasts not months or even years but generations!
It has become systemic, institutionalized and dare we say normalized with no apparent end in sight. Sure, we have made some strides along the way but we have also found new ways to commit an old sin.
Social distancing is for the benefit and survival of ALL lives. Again, it is not biased, prejudiced and is not fueled by lies, hatred, false fears and egos.
Racial distancing on the other hand thrives on those very things. It seeks not only to divide but to stretch that gap as far as humanly possible so that there is no coming together.
Despite everything we are witnessing currently, we are hopeful! We are hopeful because not only is this country finally waking up but our brothers and sisters around the globe are standing with us.
On the biggest stage, in front of the biggest audience, here we stand naked but we do not have to be afraid. No longer able to hide our scars, or numb to the pain and injustice inflicted on others for generations. No longer can we avoid the uncomfortable conversations. We are a house divided, no one can deny that. But again, we are hopeful. We are hopeful because the power to create positive, lasting change lies in each and every one of us as individuals as communities from the classroom to the boardroom to the courtroom.
The true power lies not in those who sew hatred, division and discourse. There is in this landscape a reserve of unused, untapped and unrealized power that lies in those who know in their hearts there’s something terribly wrong but for various reasons remained silent.
Those who feel they fall into that category are not judged but encouraged! If there is ever a time to show up, stand up and speak up; it is now! Unity, love, basic human decency and respect for ALL creation is what is needed. Let us continue to peacefully make our voices heard and create the long-overdue change we all need right now.
We can and will achieve this and that is why we are hopeful.