In articles and Facebook posts, I have read a plea for "unity." They reference the Black Lives Matter movement and recent shootings of police officers and say, "Enough is enough. We are one country. All lives matter. We need unity."
I am not wholly cynical. I believe that in amongst the crass political attempts to spin the narrative, there are individuals who seek a vision of peace in which all people get along in tranquility.
But as I have read before, many people will sacrifice integrity for tranquility.
This call to "Unity" seems to me to be a siren call to abandon the difficult work that must be done, to stop exposing the truth, so that the privileged may sleep better at night, and so that the monster that is white supremacy can reign unfettered, fat with destroyed lives and broken dreams, happy with keeping things the way they have always been.
As a mentor reminded me recently, we hate discomfort. We will do almost anything to avoid it.
Because of the internet, smartphones, and people being woke, the wallpaper of the American Dream is being stripped away, long curling piece by piece.
The call to "Unity" is seductive and pernicious. Fake correlations are put up: If you support "Black Lives Matter," then you do not support police officers. Of course this is ridiculous, but this is what we do as a culture. They said that if you were against the Vietnam war, you were against soldiers; if you were for equal rights for women, you hated men. This pattern keeps repeating for the simple reason of: IT WORKS. Who among us right now doesn't feel the need to say "I Support Black Lives Matter, But I Also Love Honorable Police Officers!"
I do love honorable police officers, some personally. I'm a minister, and so I feel a kinship with anyone who is called to live a life of service for others. I do not hold them to perfection - I am deeply aware of my own faults, and know that all of us are fallible humans, destined to make mistakes, and hopefully be held accountable, and try again, older and wiser from the last bump.
Because I love police officers, I want systemic change that will strengthen accountability, will get them the best training, the best mental-health resources, will remove those who do not uphold the honor of the office, and will support those noble whistle-blowers who work to make their profession better.
Law enforcement is just one part of the work to be done. As we strip away the wallpaper, we discover more and more the effects of white supremacy on the lives of black people and the rot in all of our souls. It is painful, and the more we learn, the more painful it may get. It's not about feeling guilt, it's about acknowledging reality. And being courageous enough to go further in, to sit with discomfort without "solving" it, without some deep catharsis, without absolution, without the hollywood ending. And yes, without "Unity."
When people call for "Unity," what they really mean is, "Behave. Be like us." It has made my skin crawl and my heart crack to see the calls for "Unity" right now, because what they're really saying is "Stop posting those links to stories about racism. Stop posting videos of police officers killing unarmed citizens." Some of these calls for "Unity" have even referenced love, that we all just need to love one another.
I know of no better way to love than to acknowledge reality and accept that I am a part of it. By my silence, by my inaction, I have agreed and accepted the reality of white supremacy. I am waking. But that is merely a beginning. It is my job to listen, to follow. To resist calls back to the pleasant dream.
From the Abrahamic religions to modern day sci-fi, there are stories about a charming, seductive, individual who will bring promises of paradise, but is instead serving evil.
This current call to "Unity"? It is a false messiah.
Ezekiel 13:10-12 Because they lead my people astray, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall. Rain will come in torrents, and I will send hailstones hurtling down, and violent winds will burst forth. When the wall collapses, will people not ask you, “Where is the whitewash you covered it with?”