Greetings Dear Community,

Since the events of last week, I have been revisiting much of what has transpired in the last five years, especially the rhetoric of a man who led our country to a place that many found unfathomable. I look at photos of the damage done, the broken windows, the debris left behind, images of white supremacists scaling the walls of one of the most emblematic monuments to democracy that we have—our Capitol building—and I am sickened and saddened, but not surprised.

Dr. Maya Angelou told us, “when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” I did.

I believed him when during his inauguration speech he said, “We, the citizens of America, are now joined in a great national effort to rebuild our country and to restore its promise for all of our people,” and he emphasized ‘our,’ I knew he wasn’t talking about me. When the insurgents claimed, “our president wants us here,” and when the administration and its supporters vowed to “take America back,” I knew what they are saying. Donald Trump and efforts to “make America great again” are a compulsively racist reaction to the advent of our first black president. As the country took cautious and hopeful steps forward into a more equitable future, the sickness of racism grabbed ahold of our systems of governance to lurch the whole enterprise backward. It was a pendulum swing—something our country was built to withstand—but rarely has it swung to such extremes, in such a short period, and with so little checks and balances in place to counter such intense revenge.

This administration has badly scarred our nation, but we are a resilient people. We must place our trust once more in the collective body, understanding that we are all together bound up in a single destiny, that what some of us do must matter to all of us—that we cannot turn a blind eye to the ugliest elements of our society simply because we find it distasteful, depressing, or fatiguing. If we look away, it will fester. It will spread. Indeed it did.

In his searing treatise Discourse on Colonialism, Aimé Césaire explained that a society that does not reckon with its crimes will eventually fall. He says that we cannot dally with hatred and expect it not to eventually overtake us. As he surveys the devastation of the transatlantic slave trade and the brutalizing forces of European colonization across the globe, he recognizes the same brutality that eventually encourages the rise of Hitler and leads to the horrors of the Holocaust. He writes that Europeans “tolerated that Nazism before it was inflicted on them…they absolved it, shut their eyes to it, legitimized it, because, until then, it had been applied only to non-European peoples.”

We must not make exception — ever. We must remember that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said.

Writing from within the French colony of Martinique, Césaire lambasted the French for their willful blindness to the brutality of the country’s colonial efforts in Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean. He writes:

“colonization…de-civilize[s] the colonizer,…brutalize[s] him in the true sense of the word,…degrade[s] him,…awaken[s] him to buried instincts, to covetousness, violence, race hatred, and moral relativism; … each time a head is cut off or an eye put out in Vietnam and in France they accept the fact, each time a little girl is raped and in France they accept the fact, each time a Madagascan is tortured and in France they accept the fact, civilization acquires another dead weight, a universal regression takes place, a gangrene sets in, a center of infection begins to spread; and that at the end of all these treaties that have been violated, all these lies that have been propagated, all these punitive expeditions that have been tolerated, all these prisoners who have been tied up and interrogated, all these patriots who have been tortured, at the end of all the racial pride that has been encouraged, all the boastfulness that has been displayed, a poison has been instilled into the veins of Europe and, slowly but surely, the continent proceeds toward savagery.”

Written in 1955, he could easily have been talking about the course the United States found itself on in 2021. This is part of what we saw on display during the insurgency against our duly elected officials and our democratic process. How prescient Césaire’s words truly are: covetousness, violence, race hatred, moral relativism—all appropriate synonyms for this administration’s policies and practices.

If we want to save ourselves from being totally engulfed by the infection of hatred and moral relativism, we must reckon with the inherent inconsistencies of our nation. We are a nation of free people built upon a legacy of slavery, theft, and genocide. Until we acknowledge these truths, attend to the despair and devastation they have wrought, and address the inequity initiated by these heinous practices generations ago, we will always be at war with an enemy against which we can never win: ourselves.

“A civilization that proves incapable of solving the problems it creates is a decadent civilization. A civilization that chooses to close its eyes to its most crucial problems is a stricken civilization. A civilization that uses its principles for trickery and deceit is a dying civilization,” says Césaire.

This post-election period has revealed that we are in far more grave danger than perhaps the majority of us knew or were willing to admit. It is time to look in the mirror, take inventory of what is there, and begin to make amends so that we can live into a future no longer tormented by our past, a future that is hopeful, loving, and finally—finally—free.

With abiding love,


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