The Call for Humanity
In a week like this it is harder than ever to remember that humans have a natural tendency and ability for love and care. According to evolutionary anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, our capacity for empathy and mutual understanding is, in fact, integral to our survival as a species, but the murders of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Lorne Ahrens, and Michael Smith are devoid of that humanity. Having witnessed their deaths (and so many others such as Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Sandra Bland, and more), thanks to smart phone cameras and social media, the feelings of pain, anger, hopelessness and disconnection from each other that arise every time we hear about another senseless and unjust death are only heightened. It would be so easy to retreat in anger and fear.
Instead I go to Union Square where people have gathered to protest injustice. I see people holding signs, “Free Hugs.” Several wear T-shirts and hats that affirm, “Black Lives Matter.” I see two women walk by whose long hair, similar noses, and matching gaits mark them as sisters. Friends acknowledge each other on the steps next to me. Couples hold hands and lean into each other. I am here by myself, but I get what I needed: a reminder that we as humans can and do take care of each other.
Activists begin to speak as rain starts to fall. Lightning cracks across the sky as a young Black man exhorts us to be accountable, not only for ourselves, but for each other. He begs us not to give into the impulse to match violence with violence. His words echo those of another activist, Martin Luther King, Jr. “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” Dare I add to his words by saying that love at its best is using our power to demand justice?
The kind of love that King described is a powerful, radical, transformative, and humanizing love. The GoFundMe campaign, started by Issa Rae, to raise money for Alton Sterling’s children is that kind of love. Campaign Zero’s creation of policy recommendations for more responsible policing is that kind of love. The Black Lives Matter movement, which has never as a movement advocated violence, but simply demanded humane treatment, justice, and equity for Black people, is that kind of love. The dozens of peaceful protests that have happened across the country in the past two years against police brutality and other forms of violence are that kind of love. That is the kind of love and power and action I know humanity is capable of and we need to start acting more like humans here and now.
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