Another day, another mass shooting. Another person of colour gunned down by police. Another hate-filled speech by the yellow-fuzzed presidential candidate. Another frustrated statement from President Obama. Another campus rape. Another #BlackLivesMatter protest.
It has been a particularly bad few days for America. First there was the killing of Alton Sterling. Then the killing of Philando Castile. Then [understandably] widespread protest by the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Then five police officers were gunned down in Dallas, Texas. Death, grief, fear and blame; in the United States, it’s the new normal.
And it’s scary. Watching the events unfold on Twitter – which remains the best source of on-the-scene reporting, armed with a legion of citizen journalists that even the most well-resourced media organisation can’t rival – I felt a chill descending upon me. Tensions in the land of the [not so] free are simmering.
At this stage, I don’t even want to imagine what comes next.
Alongside the horror at the loss of innocent lives, however, I wonder whether there is a silver lining emerging at the core of this long overdue push for progress, albeit at a desperately high human cost. A movement for fairness that lays bare the disturbing brilliance of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.
For black Americans, women, transgender people, indigenous people, immigrants and all other marginalised groups, America has never been great. It has been repeatedly awful. For white, straight, cisgender Americans, however, an America that prioritised them above all others was a pretty sweet deal. For a white population that has only recently become aware of, let alone developed a defensive aversion to, the concept of white privilege, it’s hardly surprising that less challenging and less self-aware times seem like the glory days. When you’re used to playing with the deck stacked in your favour, who wants to embrace an even playing field?
At the heart of the protests, the violence and the senseless killings, there is an America that is being forced to confront its flaws. Taking a long, hard look in the mirror is never easy, and a significant number of white Americans particularly are struggling to make sense of a world in which #BlackLivesMatter. The truth, as they say, hurts – although not nearly as much as the trauma of campus rape survivors, the pain that inevitably follows a volley of bullets fired by a mass-murderer or the grief of black families robbed of their loved ones by police brutality.
For now, all we can do is hope that there will be light at the end of this very dark tunnel. The truth may be painful, but it will also set you free.