I would like to believe that human nature contains an impulse towards perfection, like a gravitational pull, that over time will draw us inexorably closer to some better, more enlightened version of humanity. Perhaps future societies, fifty generations hence, will look back in some combination of awe and disgust at present-day Earth. Awe that we managed to not destroy ourselves and disgust that our civilization obtained a relatively advanced level of technological development, yet still had not found a way to transcend our baser instincts. Hatreds and fears based on racism, taking the form of overt acts, spoken words, hidden thoughts and unarticulated assumptions continue to plague our communities.
It is difficult to see Progress when history, to the average observer, seems to repeat itself over and over again. Who among the age cohort commonly known as Generation X has forgotten about Rodney King? Wasn’t there supposed to be a National Conversation on race following the acquittal of the police officers involved in his beating? Whatever became of that? What lessons were learned? And the specific case of Mr. King is - sadly - just one of many possible examples. Tragedies and instances of brutality, based on racism, persist and remain threats to our Union and other nations around the globe.
So now we bear witness to the terrible events in Ferguson, Missouri following the death of Michael Brown and the decision by the grand jury to not indict the police officer who shot and killed Mr. Brown. The immediate aftermath, among many, probably evoked sickeningly familiar feelings – sadness for the deceased and his grieving family, anger at the officer for using deadly force, dismay that the legal system will, yet again, not deliver justice. Another double standard applied, another heart-wrenching reminder that our multicultural society is far from discrimination-free. “Post-racial” America is a myth.
I find it difficult to finish on a note of optimism for the future. I can not tell it because I do not feel it. I will just hope that my thoughts regarding our capacity for evolution will not prove horribly naive and misguided.
Stay tuned, as more will follow.