The Value of “Just Talk”

As I was reeling yesterday from the seemingly unending stream of assaults on people of color in this country, I was struck by a concern which I’ve often heard echoed:

Yes, there is something wrong in this country, but the real question is what should we do about it?

In many ways, one more blog post decrying the national tragedy of police brutality and our unjust criminal justice system seems vain. It is almost certainly issued in vain, unlikely to affect any real change, and it would most certainly be vain of me to think it might have an impact.

But I keep writing.

I don’t know what else to do.

To be clear, I don’t think my commitment to social justice is fulfilled by a few strong words and inciting posts. But I also don’t think writing is completely superfluous.

It does have value.

And I don’t mean my writing – I mean everyone’s writing, or more specifically, everyone’s self-expression on this topic. In whatever media fits them best.

That has value.

We’ve grown so accustomed to relying on professionals and experts, we’ve become so focused on the institutions and the systems, that we’ve nearly lost track of the individual. We’ve forgotten about our own agency.

Our systems and institutions are broken, and we must surely find ways to tackle those challenges, but even with a terrible police response, we ought to remember –

The police aggression at a Texas pool party was started by a white woman yelling racial slurs.

Our problems aren’t about a racist cop, and they’re not about a racist police department. They are problems endemic within our society.

We each play a role in perpetuating, experiencing, or interacting with racism, and the solution must come from all of us.

We shouldn’t let the cop off the hook, and we shouldn’t let the police officer off the hook, but we should also look at ourselves and look at our communities.

We should ask how we can do better, individually and collectively.

We should share our stories, we should share our views, we should learn from each other and we should work together.

We should talk together as much as we should decide how to act together.

Indeed, the question may be “what should we do?” but to find real solutions, we must ask that question together.


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