Like so many of you, I am angry and sickened by the events that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia this past weekend. Beyond that, I am appalled, though not altogether surprised, by Donald Trump’s response to the hate-filled violence we witnessed. After waiting 48 hours to denounce any wrong-doing on the part of white supremacists, Trump came out on Tuesday, took back his words, and proved himself to be the maniacal racist apologist so many of us saw him for during the election cycle.
But, I digress.
Driving to work today, I listened to a podcast in which Paulo Cohelo, author of The Alchemist, said that when we get to the gates of heaven God will ask us just one question, “Have you loved enough?”
At this point in our history, I am not willing to say that love alone will solve our problems. The problems are too great, the chasm too large. And, it certainly is not enough to turn inward and only focus on ourselves as individuals, rather than society broadly.
In this vein, I am reminded of an art exhibit I saw this summer at the Tate Modern Museum in London. The exhibit was called Soul Nation. It focused on the contributions of Black artists in the US during the Civil Rights Era (which can be argued we never exited given the continued struggle for all Americans to experience justice). There were points in the exhibit where I was literally holding my breath because the images were so powerful. It wasn’t until I reached the room with the abstract art that I exhaled, only to begin holding my breath once again at the descriptions.
Outside the exhibit hall were several videos of Civil Rights Activists speaking to their beliefs (Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, etc.). The videos themselves were powerful, and an eye-opening introduction to the artwork we were about to experience. In particular, one activist, Angela Davis, resonated with me. Over the past few days, I’ve been reminded of her quote:
“In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.”
To me, this is how we will begin to answer the question when we reach the gates of heaven. We will have only loved enough if we not only love everyone regardless of their background, but if we have fought for their civil rights in the same way we would fight for our own; if we stand alongside those who are already using their voice for this cause, and add our voice to make it louder. The idea is not that we give others voice — too many have been fighting this fight without us to act like saviors. Instead, we must speak up when those around us disparage others. We must speak up when our elected officials are racist, or claim to be non-racist, and continue speaking up and acting until the only leaders left are anti-racist and fighting for us all.
On a daily basis, we need to ask both ourselves and each other, “Have you loved enough?”