Emotional love is wonderful – I recommend it highly – but it seems a bit out of place in racial justice work where we seem much more at home with outrage and righteous anger about the injustice in the world, as well as the sadness and grief of our own pain. Racial justice work requires commitment and stability. It requires a different kind of love: Love that is a choice, not an emotion.
...Gandhi similarly said, “where there is love, there is life,” and also reminded us that “when the power of love overrules the love of power, the world will know peace.”
This love that Wiesel and Gandhi refer to is not soft. It is not irrational. It is a powerful (and necessary) force for peace and justice. In this context, how can anyone who claims to stand for justice possibly not choose love?
But, in the context of racial injustice, simply choosing love is not enough. The 400 years of racial injustice requires that we attend to a few more details. Doing racial justice work requires that we choose the kind of love that connects us at eye-level. No matter the specifics of our work, I believe we have to engage with each other, to help each other, and to love each other, as equals --like friends -- rather than paternalistically, like we love a child, or with idealization, like we love God, though certainly I believe we ought to strive to see the divine in each other.
...Still, there is, I think, a special case for love. Criticism is a way of naming the problem and outrage a way to mobilize a response. Both are necessary but neither actually supports us in moving forward. Love points us in a particular direction. It orients us toward connection and relationship-building, toward healing and wholeness, toward beauty and goodness, toward the discovery of a shared humanity. It doesn’t necessarily tell us how to get there – and certainly there is a long road that needs to be traveled – but it helps to know which direction to walk.
As just one example, consider the tragic death of Trayvon Martin: What would it look like if we chose to look at it with love? Would we spend a little more time focusing on our grief and sadness -- for a young life lost, for a slighter older one disrupted? Might we collectively grieve the injustice of a society in which Black boys and men are disproportionally seen as criminals, not only by the public but also by those whom we entrust to protect our safety? Would we be able to access compassion for both Martin and Zimmerman simultaneously? Could we see each as both fully responsible for his choicess and as the products of a society that is, in many ways, infused with a racial hierarchy and defined by racial stereotypes? Would we imagine a different form of justice for all involved?
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