I haven’t posted a monthly wrap-up this summer because it feels…inconsiderate? frivolous? unimportant? with everything else that’s going on. When Black people are asking to be seen and heard and valued, it feels inconsequential to post about what books I’ve read lately. Instead, I’d like to share this powerful video from NPR. In it, the descendants of Frederick Douglass read portions of his speech, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” Written in 1852, the speech is (frustratingly) relevant to this moment in time. Douglass calls out the hypocrisy of how Americans freed themselves from the oppression of the British Crown, only to enslave others.
It’s not just WordPress where I’ve been silent this summer. I haven’t posted on Instagram or Facebook either. Every day, I’m learning something new about racial inequality, defunding the police, or amplifying Black voices, and my words don’t seem as necessary.
I think reading has made me an empathetic person. I’ve walked around in lots of shoes and it’s hard to deny someone’s truth when you’ve gotten to know them. But being an empathetic person can leave you exhausted lately. I can’t understand why people seem so clueless to the circumstances of others. Whether it’s a refusal to wear a mask to protect one another, people who are adamant about proclaiming ‘All Lives Matter’ or ‘Blue Lives Matter’ when faced with ideas that make them uncomfortable, to leadership that values the stock market more than people’s lives, I’m bothered by the lack of empathy many people have shown.
Frederick Douglass seems to be searching for empathy in his listeners as well. Even as he commends Americans for standing up to their oppressors, he urges his audience to see that Black Americans have not been extended the same freedoms. Instead, “Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. — The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine.” This Fourth of July feels different to me, but I’m afraid that for many other people, it will only feel different because fireworks and parades have been cancelled. While I’m annoyed by the lack of empathy, I remain hopeful that real progress and change will come about. Quarantining has given a lot of people time to stop and think. Instead of just going along with something because that’s the way we’ve always done it, there’s time to question, and learn, and make better decisions.
So fellow bloggers and readers, I’m curious to know about your social media use lately. Have you changed the way you’re posting content this summer? Are you more aware of the news and mindful of the bigger picture? Does your usual feel meaningful?