I think human beings are allergic to discomfort. I know I am. When I hear information like "The average income for white Americans is 20 times that of African Americans" I feel discomfort. Not abstract pain, but real pain in my gut and my head.
I have ulcerative colitis. I have clinical anxiety and depression.
I am constitutionally and emotionally incapable of this.
Here's why. I have had exactly two mental breakdowns in my life, where I literally wanted to die. The only way though the suffering was to face the truth head-on. Avoidance caused me more pain. My cure was brutal, raw honesty. Speak the truth and let the chips fall where they may.
Ever since then, I have been unable to lie to myself.
So when I hear about injustice, my only choice is to dive in head-first, to swim through the shit in hopes of plucking the kernel of truth. And when I find the truth, the only thing I know how to do is hold it high, to write about it, talk about it, make art. It hurts like hell, but it is infinitely better than the alternative, which is silence.
And there is another cure for the pain…active love. Two of my favorite local heroes were Ralph and Natalie Kennedy, who fought housing discrimination in Fullerton, started the Fair Housing Council. Ralph, the campus minister at Cal State Fullerton, became president of the Presbyterian Interracial Council, which worked to end housing discrimination, school discrimination, and exploitation of farm workers. He started the Friends of the Farm Workers of Orange County. Ralph was arrested for peacefully taking part in a farm worker strike in Northern California.
In an interview for the book A Different Shade of Orange: Voices of Orange, County, California Black Pioneers, Ralph said, "Love is best evidenced by serving your fellow man in whatever kind of difficulty they may be in."
Love calls us to the things of this world, the ugliness and the beauty. Love calls us to connect, to build relationships with people who think, look, or act differently from us, to struggle to understand this life together, and to speak up not just for our own self-interest, but also for the interest of others.