Progress can be interrupted
Published 5:48 pm Tuesday, May 4, 2021
Editor, The Smithfield Times:
Shortly after my father died when I was 15, my older brother taught me about “euphemisms.” My memory of that moment is vivid as he told me my father hadn’t “passed away,” he was “dead.” So, the packaging of “an ugly reality” in more a palatable wrapper belies the effect of having known what happened.
I just heard a commentator say, “America watched George Floyd’s life slip away,” and thought, “what a misrepresentation.” We watched as someone’s body was so constrained that adequate air was unavailable to sustain life. We watched as a person was unable to positively impact the situation in which he found himself as it was going to go down as others dictated.
As someone who has become very attached to being able to make decisions in my own life, it is difficult to imagine that it can cease to be an option. And yet, I think that is what we need to do: “Imagine being in a situation in which we lack any control to affect the outcome.”
A number of years ago I read a book called “Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War” by Drew Gilpin Faust. The key takeaway for me was related to the move by women to get the vote. As northern women mobilized, they attempted to get their “Southern sisters” to join in.
Northern women essentially said, “We can do whatever we want,” and Southern women had just lived through a situation in which they couldn’t do whatever they wanted as they had been left to handle the home front in a situation that was of someone else’s making.
I have recently been reminded that as gains are made toward “equity before the law,” backlash occurs as attempts to return things to the status quo can be relentless. Many people thought the Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Movement of the 1960s and ’70s righted a number of wrongs. We were on our way. And here we are with echoes of those earlier times trying to figure out what happened and where we need to go next.