Monday, June 1, 2020

On Inequality

On inequality
“I’m sad,” said bear.
“Me too,” said fox.

Thoughts while making

I was living in Oakland when the Rodney King riots / uprising erupted in May 1992. One night, I went down to the protests in Berkeley, right along Telegraph Avenue. “No justice, no peace” was the refrain as it is now. Then, as we see again and again, glass shatters, fires burn.

I remember standing there watching these drunk frat guys from Cal throw a rock through the window of the Gap store, casually stroll in, and grab handfuls of jeans. What did this have to do with a man getting beaten to an inch of his life? What did this have to do with justice? With racism? With systemic inequality?

I yelled at this cop as those guys came out of the Gap, “Aren’t you going to do anything?” And he just stared at me, another dumb white kid who didn’t understand. Or maybe I did on some level, but just didn’t have the term “white privilege” to make sense of why these guys were walking down a street loaded with cops with no repercussion ... or why I could yell at a police officer in full riot gear without fear.

I wonder what has changed in the nearly three decades that has attained between now and then? What had changed from the years before in Miami, Detroit, Watts, Newark, and on and on.

I’m heartened to see my nieces active and vocal about inequality, and I’m hopeful that this collective upswelling of voices is more than just some social media-induced virtue signaling from those with privilege, and that the conversations and actions of today will shift on cellular-to-institutional levels. What happens next matters.

In a “one person, one vote” democracy, we each still have this tool available to us. It’s just one tool, but it can be powerful; to cut out cancers in our system from the top down and remove those whose agenda against people of color, gender, women – civil and human rights – is not something we are willing to accept any longer.

I usually end my posts with a question for you. I don’t know the right question to ask, so that’s my question: What is the question you’re asking yourself or others right now?

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