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I am sure it is the election cycle time with the infuriating political ads and the stark polarization of most news outlets. Within the endless debating between this versus that, I am so weary of over-simplified perspectives on the complex issues of our time.
We fail to come together as a country and a society for a number of reasons, but one of them is our inability to take the time and be thoughtful about the issues that will dictate what our collective future looks like.
It is possible for us to hold two different thoughts at once. It is not that complicated to think through two different notions on the same topic and see the perspective and truth within each.
Let’s take the protests happening all across the country, but specifically in Portland, during the last several weeks. We can truly say that a majority of the protesters have been peaceful and desire systemic change relative to racism against people of color.
We can also truly say that a very small percentage of those in the crowds of protesters are agitating and pushing for chaos. Those who break the law and attack law officers should be held accountable for their actions—just as police officers or federal agents who break the law should be held accountable for their actions as well. We can actually hold these two thoughts and not have them be contradictory, nor act like one of the two aren’t valid and don’t exist.
The same can be said about the phrase “Black Lives Matter” and those who ask the question—don’t all lives matter? The phrase Black Lives Matter does not mean that white lives don’t matter. The phrase simply acknowledges 400 years of slavery, oppression, and racism. It acknowledges there are no data points that can claim people of color have similar life outcomes than those of their white counterparts. This is categorically and factually true. The intention of the phrase Black Lives Matter is to make that a reality. Its intention is to stop the overt oppression and racism that has existed for 400 years and acknowledge the challenges to bring both equity of opportunity and real-life success to all people of color. Once that’s accomplished, by no means a small task, the phrase will have less meaning. Of course, all lives matter as well. No one ever said that white lives don’t matter. We can hold both things to be true but understand the meaning and intent of Black Lives Matter.
The last example of being able to hold two thoughts I’d like to raise is the idea that the added financial unemployment benefits disincentivize people to go back to work. The simple financial analysis may lead some people to believe this to be true. What it does not take into account is whether an individual is making the decision to not return to work due to fears of their own safety and the safety of their family members due to COVID-19. Again, we can hold two distinct thoughts; some people may be disincentivised by earning more on unemployment than their paycheck, and others would much rather go to work but are frightened of putting themselves and their loved ones in harm’s way.
I wish we could have more vibrant conversations that include us holding more than one thought at a time. It would certainly facilitate better policy decisions and better outcomes for all.
I’ve been working in community development in the St. Louis area for 25 years, and I’ve been the CEO of Beyond Housing since 1993. While I’m proud of our accomplishments, I don’t claim to be an expert. At Beyond Housing, the experts we listen to are the voices of the community members we serve. I’ll be raising issues here that I believe matter to our community. I hope you’ll join the conversation. We do reserve the right not to post comments containing offensive language. To paraphrase Dr. King, we can disagree without being disagreeable.