Twenty years ago, I emerged from the IRT #2 subway line at Fulton Street to what could only be described as a perfect day, blue skies, not a cloud to be seen except it wasn’t a perfect day; it was a day of unbelievable horror. I remember standing on Fulton Street, staring at the towers only a few blocks away, smoldering. I remember running when the first tower collapsed and a dust cloud came roaring down Fulton Street. I remember standing on the FDR Drive only a short time later watching the second tower collapse and with tears in my eyes, turning to a colleague who also had tears in their eyes and muttering the words, my God, how many people do you think were in that building. Evil and hatred took so many from us that day, but for those of us who lived through the horror of that day, we also remember how we all came together for each other. Black or white, male or female, it didn’t matter; religious or sexual orientation was irrelevant. It was the best of humanity showing itself in the face of those who knew only hatred. It was as if we were saying; even if we didn’t realize it, hate could not define us. We are all in this together. We are all one people. Today on the 20th anniversary of that horrible day, let us remember how we bonded together, how for one moment we understood we are all human. Let us hope one day that moment can be every moment.
It’s from a place of arrogance that a republic willingly embraces ignorance among its citizens and expects to thrive. It’s from that same place of arrogance that those citizens bestow leadership on and blindly follow those who peddle ignorance for their own personal gain A republic that embraces this arrogance as a sign of strength is a republic that can not survive.
It’s March Madness, so I figured I would go to youtube and relive some of the great one shining moment videos from years past, and you know what stands out the most? It was watching young adults, black and white celebrating together or consoling each other, even opposing team players. At that movement of jubilation or sadness, they didn’t see or look for color. It didn’t matter because they were all in it together.
What a concept!
If only the world could act like that, I think to myself, what a wonderful world it would be. Oh yeah,
As I look toward the sky tonight, the moon in all its beauty looks back at me and smiles. It is our constant companion shining through the night, giving us confront in the knowledge that we need not worry that we will ever be alone and lost in complete darkness, for it will guide us through to the morning light and when the Sun rises in the morning in all its glory if you know where to look you’ll still see our guiding light the moon in the sky smiling back at us
They thought because they had money, they were better than everyone. Always rude, always mean, they carried themselves in such an arrogant manner it was nauseating. Then one day, they looked me dead in the eye and asked. Do you think you’re better than me? I replied, come on, you know me, I would never set my bar so low. Of course, I’m better than you.
There is no excuse for following or condoning the words of the ignorant be that in your actions or your silence.
I am pleased to see that we have differences.
May we together become greater than the sum of both of us.
-Surak of Vulcan
I am the child of Charles and Frances Cooke two African-Americans born in the early 1900s in the southern part of the United States. As such I have always identified myself as African-American and from time to time was reminded of this by society. From being chased out of a park while being called a nigger when I was 10, having a police officer point a gun at my head when I was 15 simply because I made the mistake of tossing a football around the yard of a white friend who lived in the suburbs, to being pulled over numerous times in my early 20s despite not fitting the “profile” because as kind of a nerd I normally had on penny loafers with argyle socks and matching sweater but my skin color was still the wrong shade.
While my self identification is the result of being raised, loved, and natured by two exceptional individuals who themselves were also African-American I am also adopted, a fact that was kept hidden from me until my late 30s. I know nothing of my biological father other than the fact that he wasn’t African-American. Recently I completed one of those DNA test and found out I was in fact 54.6% Sub-Saharan African and 43.9% European. Interesting I thought as I looked at my results how many of those Europeans had looked at me and seen just the color of my skin and thought of me as inferior? How many of them don’t look like me but have a similar ancestry? Does it really matter what my ancestry is? Does it define how I should live my life?
Our ancestry defines our culture and to a large extend our culture is a leading factor in defining who we are. But while it is a leading factor it does not change the fact that we are all human. Humans with differences but humans nevertheless. It is our differences that If embraced instead of feared would in fact make us stronger as a species. The sun, Earth’s primary source of energy, emits white light but that white light is actually a composite of all of the visible frequencies of light. Without the differences all the colors bring there would be no light at all. So is the case with the human species? Where would we be without our many differences? How would we advance and grow without the varied contributions of so many cultures?
The question before us now is how do we begin to embrace our differences as a species when our entire existence shows we let those differences divide us. Seemingly there is no answer to that. Man has always fostered a sense of loyalty rooted in group identity. We pit race against race, religion against religion, prejudice against prejudice. Divide and conquer has always been mankind’s rallying call. I am pessimistic about our ability to overcome the us versus them mentality in the short term. However I am optimistic that the human is a very promising species and as Captain Jean Luc Picard once said “inside you is the potential to make yourself better…and that is what it is to be human. To make yourself more than you are.” Today our difference divide us perhaps tomorrow we will be better and our differences will be our strength.
Some of us are Republicans, some Democrats, and some independents. Some of us are people of color; some of us are not. Some of us are heterosexual, some homosexual, some bisexual. Some of us Christian, some Muslim, some Jewish, some atheists, and a host of other beliefs; in the end, we are all American, and most importantly, we are all humans.
There is often a fear of the unknown in some of us, an irrational fear that leads to isolation. Isolation leads to a lack of knowledge and understanding about those that are different from us. If history has taught us anything, a lack of knowledge often leads to disastrous results. It also can lead to the continuous growth of the prejudices we all have within us. Those prejudices are stripped away as we begin to understand those who differ from us. However, for those who remain isolated, those prejudices remain and can be easily stoked by people in power who do so for the goal of advancing their wealth and power. These individuals thrive on chaos and division. They speak non-truths and keep the people divided against each other rather than uniting for humanity’s betterment as a whole. They want us to be afraid of each other; they want us to hate each other, want us to lose our compassion for each other, and build walls to separate us. This strategy allows them to take advantage of us all. As Suzy Kassem wrote:
When two brothers are busy fighting, an evil man can easily attack and rob their poor mother.
We must strive as Americans and humans to rise above the evil that seeks to divide us. We must stand together and keep moving forward as a society. We must marginalize those who refuse to embrace diversity. For in unifying one voice into many voices, we will be able to change the despair of today into the promise of tomorrow, and from that, we all will be better.
There are only a few hours left in 2020, one of the most arduous years most of us have ever had to endure; I remain hopeful as I watch the images of the year playback on my television. It was a year where: Many of our brothers and sisters senselessly lost their lives to a virus run rampant, aided by leader’s political overtures and the indifference of other’s health and safety by those who followed them. People of color continued to be shot and killed at a disproportionate rate by those sworn to protect them.
The rich saw their portfolios grow in size while food lines stretched for miles.
The very fabric of American Democracy came under fire, its flames fanned by American politicians looking to secure or further their careers. Yet, for as bad as it was, 2020 planted the seeds for a better future. Young people and people who never were in the past came out in record numbers to vote—determined to remove those who put themselves ahead of the country, who looked to line the pockets of the rich at the expense of most Americans, who believed that America has no responsibility for the inherent racism and social injustice it has propagated since before its birth.
Americans of all races, genders, ethnic backgrounds, religious and sexual orientations came together and took to the street in a call for racial and social justice. It was the birth of this generation’s Coalition of the Righteous. So as we head into the new year, let us not discard 2020 entirely but cultivate the seeds of hope it has planted.
Happy New Year!