Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and int he total of these acts will be written the history of [each] generation. – Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, Cape Town, South Africa 1966
Wow. On many levels.
First, “wow,” as in, “that’s incredibly inspiring.” Davis’s ability to sit with the “enemy” is yet another example of non-violent resistance, a way of transforming hearts and minds, not through argument, but through relationship.
Second, “wow,” as in, “I think you’re going to be very alone in your efforts, my friend.” The current state of affairs for many is systemic exhaustion and impatience at the systemic racism, emboldened nationalism, and residual supremacy that still is alive and well. For some, Davis is the primary example of how to tackle this kind of hatred. Yet, what is not understood, therefore not appreciated, is the burden this places upon the victims of racism, as if the onus of responsibility is upon their shoulders alone to “love their enemy.” Applaud Davis’s work, yes. But don’t then tell your black brothers and sisters that this is the way forward.
Which leads me to the third “wow,” as in “you (Davis) really disrespected the BLM representatives.” The height of tension in the film was Davis’s conversation with Kwame Rose and Tariq Touré, of the Black Lives Matter movement. Davis was certainly being critiqued and questioned as to his efficaciousness. Yet, instead of building bridges to the young men, he was defensively disdainful, calling them “ignorant.” I find in this example both the challenge of a movement’s ethics, and the human frailties of the people in those movements.
Fourth, “wow,” as in “the KKK still exists in this way, in this form, in this time?” My friends tell me I should not be surprised. I suppose I’m not “surprised” as much as I am “disheartened.”
Overall, while I appreciated the film, and the ministry of Davis, I found in this documentary another reminder of why we should always be sober-minded in our opinions of people. We often categorize people according to their greatest accomplishments, or their most egregious sins or failures. Humanity finds those categories movable, not fixed, transformable, not concrete, redeemable, not forsaken.
Quotes and References from the film
“Let’s say you and 20 other people have this group that is anti-racist. And all you do is talk about how bad racism is. Well, what good is that group doing? All you’re doing is preaching to the choir. If you and I agree, I’m not accomplishing anything by trying to convince you of what you already know. The way you resolve that is, you invite somebody to the table who disagrees with you so you’;; understand why they have that point of view, then you perhaps you fill figure out a solution to assuage their fears.”
“People tend to feel comfortable around things with which they are familiar, and sometimes they may become xenophobic or develop of fear of things that are different. That fear can be overcome. If they go beyond that fear and develop a hatred, that’s harder to overcome.”
“Always keep the lines of communication open with your adversaries, regardless of what the topic is. When two enemies are talking, they’re not fighting.”
How can you hate me, when you don’t know me?
“I did not respect what he had to say. I respected his right to say it.”
“We are living in space-age times, but there are too many of us still thinking with stone-age minds.”
“If you have an adversary, someone with an opposing point of view, regardless of how extreme it will be, give that person a platform, allow them to air their views. When you do that, there is an excellent chance that people will reciprocate.”
“Tom Robb will tell you that he is not my friend. I am Tom Robb’s friend. And I feel that one day he will come around.”
“All of this was not about Michael Brown, or Darrin Wilson for that matter. It was about decades of police abuse. We’ve seen many of these incidents throughout the country. I felt safer with the Klan. When I see a Klansman walking towards me in a robe and hood, I know what he stands for. When I see a police officer in a uniform with a badge and a gun, I know what they’re suppose to stand for. There are certainly many many honest, decent police officers throughout our country. But there is a percentage who are bad cops. Good cops need to stop obeying that code of silence. It says a lot to how far we have not come.”
“The police culture is a muck. It’s gone so far that the idea right now is that if an officer is afraid, then he can do whatever he wants. He can kill at that moment. [As long as he uses the phrase, “I fear for my life.”] And we have a society that has determined that we should fear the black man. [Where does that culture come from initially, in the police department?] It’s that “us” vs. “them.” You are our superior because you are that thin blue line. The legal system and the police culture are designed that these people are never wrong. In Maryland, the literal perception is that the city police, their purpose is to control the monkeys and keep them contained within the confines of Baltimore. That is how people in the suburbs see city residents. So how do I get a cop that comes from that environment to sit down and talk and to actually see that person as a human? – Michael A. Wood, Jr. (Twitter)
I’m glad I have this stuff because it shows that people can indeed change. It also shows what a lot of people don’t believe.
“When you have an alcohol or drug problem, the alcohol and drugs are not the problem, they’re just the symptom. There’s a deeper problem. Racism is just a symptom. I didn’t have to address the racism, I had to address those deeper issues within myself.” – Scott Shepherd; (Twitter, Facebook)
“I never set out to convert anybody. I just set out to get an answer to my question, How can you hate me when you don’t even know me?”
“I do think that white supremacy is the main problem, that privilege is the main problem. And if we can get past that, then we can focus on all the nuances of how to make it beautiful.” – Michael A. Wood, Jr. (Twitter)
“Not all people who voted for Donald Trump are racists. But all racists voted for Donald Trump. The Klan has been preaching much of the same thing that the president-elect ran his campaign upon, and now they have a leader who is sharing their sentiment, and emboldening them. I do believe he is doing us a favor, because it is bringing out all the ugliness from out under the carpet and we all have seen it first hand, and we cannot address it until we see it. I feel very hopeful and optimistic for the future. You know, Americans are survivors, and fortunately there are enough of us from all religious backgrounds, all skin-tones that feel, you know, if we come together we can survive anything. And I think Donald Trump is going to show us the way whether it is intentional on his part or not.”
Davis’s represents a “retail” strategy, vs. SPL Center represents a “wholesale” strategy.