What Does it Mean to be in the Movement?
by IRJ Blog Contributor Eddie Umana
The more I learn about what’s going in this country, the more I realize we haven’t progressed as much as we’ve thought.
We feel we’ve progressed because of all of the technological advances we see. The stories of upward mobility and access to college education for the more disenfranchised. We measure progress also in the fact America has elected and re-elected a black president. We pat ourselves on the back as if it’s some massive achievement. As if electing a black president confirms we’ve erased all the racial ills in our society.
Some even said Obama’s election was Martin Luther King Jr’s dream realized. Those who’ve read Dr. King’s speeches know better.
Ultimately, Obama’s election was used as an excuse for white America, the wealthy, the liberals and the middle-class to be disengaged. An excuse to be selfish. An excuse to be elitist. An excuse to be “American”. And fundamentally, an excuse to be inhuman.
The losers are not only the poor and people of color terrorized by the police let alone the whole system. We must remember we all lose when we tacitly allow those in less privileged situations to continue to suffer as we turn a blind eye.
What right do I have to be in a privileged position, and tacitly deny poor people food then criticize them for being lazy?! What right?! If I do not know what it means to be poor, then why am I speaking on how a poor person should live their life?
Yet on a continual basis, we cannot help ourselves and insert our opinions and views into situations where essentially they are not welcome. Then we become surprised when our views, opinions and beliefs are met with hostility.
We make our feelings, desires and opinions more important than the person who is suffering. Tell me that’s not fucked up. Being in a privileged position, you can always walk away. For the poor person, they have to stare dead straight at the lion every single day of their lives, wondering if this is the day they’ll be swallowed whole.
So when we say “my brother”,”my sister”, how far are we willing to extend that? Will we continue to ignore those who are suffering? When we pass by a homeless person on the street, will we remain unmoved? Will we allow our hearts to be pricked in a way to at least start thinking how we can change this situation? How in a country where the 1% have the lion share of wealth as so many families are dirt poor and neglected by society.
It’s beyond clear we should have been committed to liberation work all along. Invested in each other’s liberation but we got caught up in our own selfishness.
There are many ways to give back to our communities, to our loved ones. To society. But if we decide not to give back, will we eagerly rationalize a way out and forget to evaluate how we view our fellow human?
It’s easy to criticize those below you. It’s easy to criticize when you don’t have to put anything into the offering plate. It’s easy to criticize as the soulless armchair critic. However by doing so, we have only confirmed we have fallen for the okey doke.
The reality is that poor person could have been you. And if it was you, imagine living in a society that constantly spits in your face and continually tells you “not good enough”. Then trying to survive and provide for your family any way you can. Realizing your kid’s only major meal will be the free/reduced lunches provided by the school.
Reading up on the inhumane conditions children in Baltimore face crushed my heart. Kids who can’t even attempt to live out their dreams because their minds are preoccupied by survival. In America. In 2015.
It is truly unacceptable and it must change. Beyond police brutality, there are more hidden forces which continue to oppress our people, other marginalized communities and the poor. That is why we say, “when black lives matters, then all lives will matter”. While we are far from this moment, we commit to the struggle. We commit to the work of liberation. Not so that we may see the fruits of our labor, but to work to loosen and break the chains which has crippled parts of our nation for centuries.
It’s with such perspective that when ego becomes bigger than the work, the impact is lost. Kayla Reed, of Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis, says “High Impact, Low Ego” it is an extension of Deray’s “love is the why” and Charles Wade’s “my joy is non-negotiable”, crafted into a flaming sword of joy, love, compassion, empathy, peace and understanding. It reminds us that the work is not about us. That we are only vessels such that the work can be done through us so our neighbor, too, can be set free.
As we navigate the movement and find our niche, we must continue to strip away the ego which will only divide us and push through the vulnerability as we remind ourselves why we joined the fight in the first place. Everyone has a place. Everyone has a lane. We must pursue these lanes furiously so as to make the most impact we can while we are here. Established legacies will be left to history, liberation is left to what we do now. Let us rise and go again, as we seek to defeat a hideous monster in white supremacy which disguises itself as pure light and the zenith of life.
The movement lives. Inside of me and you. We must continue for we have left ourselves no other choice. The.Movement.Lives