I think that to bring the motto “Lift as We Climb” into present day context we must first acknowledge where we are. Our collective trauma is a result of over a century of enslavement, followed by a century more of blatant racism and socioeconomic discrimination, and then this…this quiet insidious kind, that was so long discredited and invisible, has led us here. To this. Now.
We are now at a point when racial tensions seem again to be at an all-time high. People walk around angry and fearful constantly. There’s a hypervisibility of black bodies and lives. The full extent and impacts of systemic discrimination and racism are being widely exposed in ways that they haven’t been since the Civil Rights Movement (maybe in ways that they have never been, considering all of the different apparatus’ we have for sharing media these days).
It’s as if the country was shell shocked, stumbling deaf and blind out of the 60s, numb and tired, and easily lulled by the lullaby of a false and fragile unity.
But people are waking up.
And now that they’re “woke” the question that follows: What can I do?
The issues seem massive, ungraspable even to the mind, let alone the hands. The topic of racism is not easily grappled with, applicable solutions even more elusive. It can be overwhelming to imagine you must take on the weight of this consciousness alone.
But you must not, in fact, you cannot. You should not.
There are so many lines that divide our community; color, class, gender, sexuality, ability, etc. As we’ve been given more time, more freedom, to explore our diversity (as all ingroups eventually do, when extinction seems less imminent), we’ve lost sight of what pulls us together.
We’ve stopped being a collective. We’ve dissolved what tentative ties we had to one another in the names of progress, or assimilation, or survival.
As Black Americans, our collective history is entangled with so much struggle and pain. No wonder we try so hard to distance ourselves from one another when what so often ties us together is trauma.
But we must remember that, however short, our history is much more than this. There is also accomplishment and ingenuity. There is talent, and genius, and creativity, and joy.
We are so much more than our struggle.
We are so much more than our pain.
Yes, we are in a war, fighting on multiple fronts for our generation and the next, in hopes that the world will yield, will bend to our will for justice, and equality, and change. Yet and still we need to lift each other up. We need to share lightness, and love, and laughter. We need silliness, spontaneity, spirituality.
We need to reach out hands to one another, not only to help and advocate for those of us who cannot do for themselves, but also to support those that are already doing so. We all need a hand, sometimes, to be reminded that we are not alone in this climb.
You are not alone in this climb.