Look into the eyes of these two children. They are both suffering under the weight of hopelessness and dwelling in the midst of poverty and neglect. Would you ever go up to either of these two children and tell them that they are lazy and don’t want to work or tell the other that she is a product of “white privilege”.
It seems that we are quickly devolving in society where we at one hand supposedly fight injustice while concurrently throwing around indictments towards a whole group of people. We are being led by the nose towards conflagration between neighbors who suffer equally yet have been convinced that they are each others worse enemy.
Look, I do not point this out without acknowledging that I too was once part of this problem. When we feel injustice, it’s easy to monopolize pains and in the process demonize others who don’t look like us. I too once talked about “white privilege” or “white supremacy”, throwing around fiery rhetoric and getting amens from the choir who also found it easier to fight hatred with hatred. But where does fighting fire with fire get us, especially when we throw fire to others who are also burn victims. We are just creating more flame casualties as we incinerate each other and make profits for only match makers.
It was not until I saw the the truth behind the lies that I realized that I was actually contributing to the very grievances that I once fought against. Blaming “white privilege” is through and through ignorant for there are endless “white folk” who suffer just like us. The same ignorance that is uttered when some “white people” accuse us of being lazy or “living off the dole of government”. How easy it is to throw flames to bridges than it is to actually build them, the harder path is to actually forge unity so that others who suffer can join hands in fighting inequity.
But how can I in all honesty blame “white privilege” when homeless shelter after homeless shelter is chalk full of “white folk” who whither in hopelessness along with their “black” brothers and sisters? How can I blame “white folk” for the history of slavery or colonization when there were “white folk” who suffered in poverty and hardship who had nothing to do with the evils of slavery or colonization?
I don’t speak of these things in theory while sipping lattes in ivory towers. Homeless shelters were my abode not too long ago and even at this present moment, I’m living among the indigent as I feed them. Injustice is not a hypothesis, I see the statistics, veterans, the unemployed, and those who lost their homes, as I struggle with my fellow sufferers to keep the flame of hope flickering in this our hearts. Injustice is colorblind; those who prosper through inequity mug us all without regard to the useless labels and isms we hold on to so dearly.
We are being massively misled as a people, I’ve said this countless times now but I will keep saying this until it starts to sink in. “Black folk” in Chicago have more in common with their “white” brethren in the Appalachians who suffer in the squalor of poverty than they do with the bourgeoisie gentry in DC and Manhattan, the sellouts who wear thousand dollar suits partying it up in the Hamptons and Martha’s Vineyard as they use our suffering to accumulate fortunes and followers on social media. When are we going to wake up to the fact that the talented 10th have been unleashed upon their people while 90% have been left mired in abject hopelessness. I’m not repeating anything new, I’m just restating in different ways what Malcolm X warned about 50 years ago.
I’m understanding now that the system of colonization and injustice needs society to fracture and shatter into encampments of endless aggrieved groups so that we can fight each other while the powerful take from all of us. This is how “Africa” was colonized and bit by bit the powerful are colonizing every inch of the world and bleeding every inch of humanity. Thus, when we try to monopolize pain, when we seek justice through the prism of race, religion, gender, orientation and the endless ways we keep slicing and dicing humanity, we become pawns in a game of division where the rich multiply their riches while reducing our livelihood and God given right of happiness.
It is easy to pick up a gun and point it, it only takes one finger to pull a trigger. The harder path,vand the way towards love is, to actually extend five fingers and hold hands with those who suffer just like us. It is for this reason I am deeply saddened by those who keep preaching from the playbook of exclusion and hatred and, in the process, are leading humanity towards even more antipathy and malice. These hope goblins and vacuos demogogues are not offering solutions, they are just offering sticks to add onto the flame of injustice.
All about us we, are being led by wolves who benefit from echoing the very worst aspects of our nature yet few are at the forefront speaking to our better angels. I want to blame the demagogues who are capitalizing on our misfortunes and stoking resentment and violence, but really I blame us for it seems we are drawn to those who preach fire as we ignore those who teach with light.
All these journalists and pundits who are writing about “white lash” and “white privilege” have not an iota of an interest in fighting for humanity. Their job is to be race baiters and yellow press mudslingers who depend on the very hatred they are talking against to get their paychecks. How many of these pundits are actually talking of unity and oneness, I can’t find one, nah they are busy spreading grievances as they are counting their opulence.
Let me speak this truth to those who are repulsed by Trump’s election. This is what happens when a whole slew of people feel like their pains are not acknowledged and further feel like they are being made villains and scapegoats of society’s ills. So they elected Trump who spoke to their grievance to them the same way we cheered on Obama when he catered to our grievances. This is the playbook of divide and conquer that it seems few understand, each tribe needs a “spokesperson” to convince us that we are different than “them” so that we can continue fighting each other instead of uniting to fight for our common interests. Trump is just a less eloquent and paler version of Obama speaking to antipathy of “white folk” as he prospers from their pains.
Remember when the shooting happened in South Carolina, the survivors of the victims forgave and spoke love to the person who silenced the lives of nine souls in a hail of fire and hatred. The media narrative leading up to the act of forgiveness was one of racial strife that could have led to violence and more death. With three words, I forgive you, an angelic soul offered healing instead of spreading enmity. Barack Obama though, a week later, goes down to Charleston and does the exact opposite, bringing up historical pains not to heal but to demagogue and in the process further alienate those who had nothing to do with the shooting. When we keep fighting injustice through the prism of just “us” we end up with the government that has just been foisted upon us.
Our pains are being manipulated by shysters all around us, from Van Jones to Reverend Al Sharpton on one side to Sean Hannity to Laura Ingraham on the other side, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, the black lives matter movement is being imposed on us for the same reason that the tea party movement was imposed on the other side. This is a means to inject animosity between people who are suffering irrespective of the labels we put on ourselves, are we going to keep falling for this pernicious blueprint that keeps fragmenting humanity? Or will we rise above the hatred that is being furthered by those who have an interest in keeping us partitioned from one another?
What does it profit us as a people if we keep responding with anger instead of uniting based on our common hopes. There is a reason I keep using quote marks on “black” and “white”, its because we are more than our labels. These labels were given by oppressors to begin with, do your own research to understand where these labels came from. Trust me, our ancestors were not calling themselves black before enslavement. I say our ancestors even though my family lineage never felt the pains of slavery because the suffering of one is the suffering of all us. The reason these labels were given was to splinter humanity into the abyss of identification instead of realizing our common identity of humans and how we were made in the image of a creator infinitely more powerful than our minds can phantom.
So are we going to keep slow walking into the fire that is being set for us? Are we going to keep dividing ourselves as the powerful prosper through our disunion? Or will we wake up and see each other as fellow sufferers and sojourners who have a common struggle? Are we going to only accept the suffering of one of the children above while ignoring the suffering of the other or will we commit ourselves to caring and loving for all children regardless of the label society gives them without their consent?
We have a choice, listen to the love within us or act out the anger that is being whispered into us. Are we going to keep hacking at the branches of injustice as we nourish its roots through accusatory rhetoric or will we actually attack the roots of injustice through inclusive actions? Hatred and malice can’t nourish us nor lessen our burdens, only love and unity can lead us towards redemption.
Until we stop seeing pain through prism of isms instead of seeking justice through humanism we are only perpetuating injustice. Do we want to do right or do we just want to be right? This is the crux of the matter for the only way to defeat injustice is to unite, all other attempts ring hollow and are works which are dead.
If you see children not color and understand the intent on this message, share this article on social media and counter the voice of divisive demagogues with love based on our common aspirations. When you share this link, use #GhionMessage
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.