I figure something is better than nothing and I hope that in my haste I don’t overlook anything which could cause unnecessary offense to others. I don’t wish to remain utterly silent regarding Ferguson and since I haven’t been following the news, my comment are more strategic than tactical in nature and call forth another voice which I respect and find pertinent.
I really enjoyed reading Cornel West’s Hope on a Tightrope back in the fall of 2009. I wish to share some of his words, for he is a wise man who has given much more thought to racial issues than I have. His book opened my eyes to some worthy perspectives and gave me a better understanding of important issues. The book chapters deal with such topics: state of emergency, courage, philosophy, identity and race, faith, family, music, leadership, love and service, social justice, freedom, and wisdom. I highly recommend the book to anyone interested in racial matters, democracy, Christianity, and wisdom. And of course this relatively accessible book is supported by much more serious and academic works, such as his Race Matters, which I haven’t read, if you feel so inclined.
What I was really searching for in the book but couldn’t quite find was an insightful observation about white culture, which he dubbed vanilla. We have an obsession for cleanliness and avoidance of the anything dirty or messy. And this carries over to our social lives and our self-images; we may be depressed but when a friend asks us how we are doing, we chirp “good” with a smile on our face. I was at a dance festival in Los Angeles this past summer and had opportunity to meet a woman from France whom I was very much attracted to but didn’t have much opportunity to get to know beyond a few brief interchanges. In her accent she observed this vanilla aspect of white Americans, who sometimes can be superficially glossy covering less than admirable qualities; whites tend to avoid our psychological shadows. I find the rock band, Smile Empty Soul, captures some of these sentiments, pointing to a lot of the hypocrisy in white-suburbia America.
Let us humans aspire to be great, rather than successful (materially), to the rhythm of the “drum major instinct.” Great in love, great in character, and great in soul looking to such luminaries as Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, among many others, for inspiration and guidance.
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” Gandhi
(Written on 11/30/14)