I’ll bet you are too.
I had this whole, really cool blog written about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and how, in America, some people in our population can be at level 5 without feeling like they’d ever achieved level 4, but much of the rest of the world was still languishing in level 1, and how we’re the only country on earth where you could be at level 1 on a Thursday, then get a call from your agent on Friday and move all the way up to level 5, but then still kinda worry about level 2, blah, blah, blah.
Not gonna lie. It was good.
Then, I tied that in to the conversations I’ve been having with my black friends and how they’ve been feeling about level 4 and how we’ve talked about truly being seen and heard and how they’ve told me that someone saying “they don’t see color” feels like they’re saying they don’t actually see them.
And then I wrote this cute little blurb about how I was a middle-aged, pasty white guy, with splotchy skin, grey hair and a dad bod and if you didn’t want to see that when you looked at me, that would be just fine.
I crack myself up.
I did this whole thing about how I support (and have always supported) putting away the Confederate flag.
I did a thing about how I support saying black lives matter. Period. Because it makes black people feel not seen when you come back with, “no, ALL lives matter.”
And maybe the breakdown in the conversation was that a lot of people have wondered, “who in the name of God ever said black lives didn’t matter in the first place? The whole concept of someone not mattering because of their skin color is so perverse, I don’t even want to consider that thought,” and that’s what the whole “black lives matter – wait, JUST black lives matter? of course not – all lives matter – so you’re saying ALL lives matter? NO! Black lives matter …” eye-rolling political “who’s on first” routine is all about.
Again…I’m a funny guy.
In that blog, I went through an average day of mine, which basically consists of being a care-giver for someone with a severe disability, maybe going to the grocery store, trying to get a workout in, trying to write something that will earn some money, and watching TV with my wife at night. Then, doing it all again the next morning.
And I asked the question: what part of that day was systemically racist?
I had to conclude that on the surface, at least, none of it was. But what about beneath the surface?
Did I have my house because I was white? Did I live in the part of town I live in because I was white?
If I had been born in a predominantly black culture, would anyone had even liked my music enough to provide me enough money to get out of poverty? (which is how I got out, by the way – it’s also how I got back in – but I digress …)
These are questions worth pondering. But they’re really difficult to answer, because there’s so much nuance and complication involved. It’s not all black and white…literally.
And that’s the way it is for most people who participate in the American system…no matter what they look like.
When I see most Americans, I see people – of ALL races and nationalities – trying to work to provide for a family, trying to do better, trying to get something right, trying to obey the laws, trying to chase an opportunity or a dream, trying to get through life without rolling down the hill backwards.
Are there racists involved in all of that? Sure.
But as I watch what’s happening right now: as city blocks, in major American cities, are being seized and re-organized (to what? I don’t know), as I watch entire police precincts surrender and go home, as I watch city councils all over America actually convene about dismantling their police departments (it’s actually happening in my town), and as I watch young, militant white kids killing people and burning things to the ground, I start to wonder if maybe none of this was about racial reconciliation in the first place.
All the big flash points in our society: racial protests, #metoo marches, climate change warriors, and even Covid 19 mavens, seem to end up being hijacked by the same people who always come to the same conclusion: tear down the whole system.
It’s like these causes are just the horses the real revolution rides in on. And it’s staring to feel like it’s not a coincidence.
While we’re having our “real talk” and “examining our hearts” and preparing our “reconciliation sermons” and bowing and apologizing and posting mic drop memes and making sure we check all the right outrage boxes, and while Lady Antebellum is changing their name (I never understood why two dudes were in a band called “Lady Before the War” anyway – but whatever), those who are driving the real agenda are using all of this stuff to distract us while they work to eliminate the actual system itself.
They’ve been gas lighting us…ALL of us…black and white, alike. And we’ve been twisting and turning, throwing our backs out trying to figure out what we did wrong or how we’ve been wronged and how we can fix it. Meanwhile, something else was happening we haven’t been paying attention to.
Look, I get it. If you think the system doesn’t work for you, you want to kill it and start all over again. I guess that’s what America did in 1776.
But remember this: if you destroy a system, you’d best be ready to replace it with a better one. That’s also what America did.
The dismantling of police departments might feel good in the moment. But the domino effect is this:
You leave the population questioning basic safety (number 2 on their hierarchy of needs). And that makes them not want to send their kids to school in those areas or start businesses in those areas, and finally they move from those areas.
And that drives property values down.
And that creates a strain on banks and lending institutions.
And if enough strain is placed on them, they go under and cease to exist.
And one by one, every enterprise, on every city block, has to shut the door for the last time.
Entire areas of town just board up and stop operating.
Pretty soon you can buy a house for $500 bucks, but you won’t want to because there’s nothing there.
And when the people who want to “revitalize” that part of the country or city show back up, they’re going to have to start with an operational police force, because…basic safety (number 2 on the hierarchy of needs).
Unless you’ve got a real plan to replace that intricate system you just destroyed, with a better one, you’re just a rebel without a Declaration.
I’m all in on racial reconciliation. I always have been. I’m ready for ALL people to achieve level 4 on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (being seen and heard). I always have been.
But the American system is a good one. It’s the best one ever put together in the history of the world. It’s a system that can be tweaked and re-shaped and amended and revised. And it has been.
I don’t know where all this ends, but at the moment I’m not sure what to do or what to say.
Like a lot of people, I’m paralyzed by not wanting to offend and not wanting to get cancelled and, quite honestly, sometimes not even wanting to exist. Because just existing in today’s world – especially in this splotchy skin – carries with it all these weird undertones I can’t seem to keep up with.
I’m just a dude trying to get to Friday. That’s what most of us are. I don’t know how to do that at the moment without triggering somebody, somewhere.
But I am a willing and unapologetic participant in the American experiment and fully committed to a system that I actually believe can work for anybody and everybody.
The tricky part is that it is managed and operated by human beings. And that makes anything imperfect.
For those who want to tear it all down, just remember that when you build your new society.
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