“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
- Martin Luther King Jr.
These words by Martin Luther King Jr. are just as relevant now while protests are happening all around the United States in the wake of George Floyd's killing as they were in 1957 when he first said them in a sermon. In 1967, 10 years later, the Beatles released "All You Need is Love." Love is needed now more than ever. But what exactly does that mean? And how do we get there to where love actually overrides hate?
Some say love is a noun, others say it is a verb. It is a state of being and also an emotion. It is hard to capture everything it can mean and everything it can be. With what is happening right now in our country, I see a lot of love, believe it or not. I see love in the peaceful, diverse protests taking place in major cities. People standing side-by-side in solidarity for a common cause - sounds like love to me. I see love every time I see a facebook friend of mine make a post talking about how they are finally opening their eyes to the white privilege they possess and how they are ready to do something about it to better support and be an ally to the people of color experiencing oppression every day. That's love.
The issue that's going on is that this isn't love as people typically think of it. People often think of love as being this pretty, soft, kind thing. They think of it as tender and sweet. This is different. This is a protective kind of love, a fierce kind of love, a love that is enraged at injustice and refuses to stay silent. This is the kind of love that is needed. This is the kind of love that I only recently started to feel myself, if I'm being honest. As a white woman, I have the privilege to look away and I did. I didn't want to watch the video of George Floyd being killed. I didn't attend the protest in downtown Seattle. I sat safely in my home and did...quite frankly, nothing. In my heart, I of course believed that what had happened to him was wrong. Of course, I love Black people, I thought to myself. I studied some of my own biases in graduate school and do my best to interact with kindness and openness to people who come from different cultural backgrounds than myself. I am kind. I am loving. I am doing enough...or so I thought.
It's hard to pinpoint the moment where I finally realized I was failing, when I realized that what I just described above isn't actually love. I had not shed a single tear about what had happened and was busy living my life like normal, not thinking too much about George Floyd or the countless other Black people who have been senselessly murdered and brutalized by police and other white people for centuries before him. If you would have asked me how I felt about it, I would have said, "I feel bad, it's horrible, it shouldn't have happened." But that would have been the end of it. I would have moved on. After seeing so many of my facebook friends make post after post and refusing to be silent, I realized I needed to take a good, hard look at why I wasn't doing the same thing. I had to look at what else I was prioritizing over my fellow human beings being murdered and terrorized every day in big and small ways. And then, I finally decided to look by watching the video. And then I cried. And I raised my voice yelling at the screen. And I was...enraged. And then I knew I was getting somewhere. I was getting closer to love.
Of course, that's only the starting point. Now where do I go? What do I do? I am still navigating that. I took a couple of steps today that showed that I am starting to take action to stand up and do something. There's no need to post here about what they were. I think it's very easy for white people to pat themselves on the back and want to draw attention to the "good works" they're doing. I have to actively fight that urge myself because it's so tempting to want to say, "Look! I'm changing and learning! Aren't I doing a good job?". It's long overdue. Loving like this is new to most of us. It certainly is for me. It's not meant to be something "special" or "unusual"; it's not something that deserves praise or acknowledgement. It's meant to be a way of being and doing. We talk about how romantic relationships take work. They do. And so does this kind of love. It takes prioritization and time and energy and repetition. But I can't think of anything else I want to do more now than finally, finally start doing it. I hope you will, too.