Sunday September 11 passed and it was 15 years. In the years since I've been humbled by people's experiences and loss. I like every other American have memories of that day, but some people's memories are more visceral and painful than others like mine. Finding out a classmate from business school was focused on renewable energy because he lost a brother that day and wanted to help get American dependence off foreign oil, that humbles me to this day. About a month ago I watched The Falling Man, which is a horrifying refresh of the realities of that day, and of the sanitation we went through as a country to try to heal from this terrorism and tragedy.
But this year I wanted to do something other than post about it personally. Rather than watch Zero Dark Thirty which has become my go-to way to deal with feeling terrorized. Maybe I was inspired by the TED radio podcast the Act of Listening. Maybe recently watching The Falling Man felt like enough remembrance of that day. Maybe it was the fact that Straight Outta Compton on dvd was sitting on my table from Netflix that got me thinking. Reminded me about #Oscarssowhite. And reading on why the ad industry's diversity initiatives are failing. Got me thinking about Colin Kaepernick's nonviolent act of protest of kneeling during the anthem, and both the negative reaction he had received and the acts of support from fellow NFL players and one of my hometown female soccer athletes. And my thought process was this: I wouldn't protest the anthem nor burn the flag, and I will fight for my fellow Americans Constitutional right to do so...but more importantly...why do they feel the need to do so? What is their experience that has driven them to do so on September 11, this sacred American day?
I decided instead of looking online at the 9/11 remembrances and instead of posting on my Facebook, that this year I would spend that day listening. That I would try to understand what I do not "get" based upon my own experience in the most accessible way I could: movies. I would listen by watching Selma and Straight Outta Compton back-to-back as an active steeping in the African American experience and community. And here's the thing that shook out for me by watching these two movies back-to-back that reach back to the 1960s and the 1990s: how very little has changed. Time has passed, but even this recent history has a way of repeating itself.
It's still hard for me to personally imagine kneeling during the anthem on September 11...but that's because I haven't faced the decades long injustices and struggle of African Americans in this country. And if that were my experience, I would be hard pressed to find ways to get people to listen. I would be out of avenues that weren't like kneeling during the anthem. The backlash that has come to the leaders whose voices have been heard and led to change for these communities is severe. In the 1960s, they were murdered. In the 1990s, they were discounted and silenced in the mainstream media as thugs.
What happened when NWA were interviewed by the mainstream media in the 1990s has almost no difference to the way we've engaged in the mainstream media about Black Lives Matter. The average American and the media has only given space to address the "how" there's been engagement in the conversation. The outrage at the method as a way to ignore the message. I keep thinking what I would do if my voice wasn't heard and I felt my life was on the line? Any rational human would say it louder or find new ways to get themselves heard, myself included.
So through the act of listening in the way available to me, I empathized and I learned. And decided firmly that it's not hard to see how we've gotten here at all. I for one want to count my voice in with their movement for justice. Silence is not the answer nor the way forward and I believe more people like me - aka white - need to be anti-racism not just not racist.
I may just be one voice in the void, but I think it matters, because that's what enviro(ish) is all about:
Because you can despair that each action you take is only one tiny drop in the ocean....or you can be inspired that the ocean is made up entirely of tiny drops.