“[…] he said, ‘C’mon guys, let’s show the world that Laramie is not this kind of town.’ But it IS that kind of a town. If it wasn’t this kind of a town why did this happen here? […] And we have to mourn this and we have to be sad that we live in a town, a state, a country where shit like this happens. I mean, these are people trying to distance themselves from this crime. And we need to own this crime. I feel. Everyone needs to own it. We are like this. We are like this. We are like this.” -Zubaida Ula, as quoted in The Laramie Project
“Don’t come to Mississippi this summer to save the Mississippi negro. Only come if you understand—really understand—that his freedom and yours are one.” -Bob Moses, civil rights activist, 1964
Back in 2016, I told my friend America was becoming something I didn’t recognize. She said: “It sounds like this was your wake up call. But America has always had this side. You were just lucky enough that you didn’t have to look.” I’ve spent some of today reading about civil rights activists like Bob Moses and Fannie Lou Hammer. As I read about how openly and brutally hate, fear, and prejudice stepped up to shove them down, I thought back to that friend. We are the kind of country where white men violently storm the Capitol yelling “this is our house.” We need to feel that. Look in the mirror, own it.
And keep working on it.
Because we are not only like that. We are also like Stacey Abrams and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, like Judy Heumann and Zubaida Ula and Bob Moses. Of course there are some obvious ways where “my”—my sandwich, my money, my candidate—can mean “not yours.” But there are so many more ways where “my”—my health, my peace, my freedom—and yours are one. That’s a different kind of ours. That’s the one I choose for our house. I’m working to understand, so I can help with the work.