The Fire Next Time

June 4, 2020 By Katherine Tyler Scott

We are witnessing the predictable repeat of history and the continuing consequences of a failure of leadership in dealing with it. The lack of courage and competence at the highest levels of government is manifested in reactive behavior that is not productive. We are being driven by ignorance and fear rather than a desire to face uncomfortable truths about who we are as individuals and as a Country.

We are in crisis, and the murder of George Floyd was the “last straw” for many. Why? For many reasons, but it was the power of his dying words, “I can’t breathe” that provoked the protests and the violence. His plaintive expression resonates with millions across the globe, millions who daily can’t breathe because of environmental degradation, lack of economic opportunity, racism, autocratic leadership, sexual exploitation and so many other forms of oppression. 

When any system chokes the life out of humanity the entire system will suffer. As leaders we must use our voices and skills to help those with whom we live and work to engage in self-examination so that the shadow that resides within every human being does not continue to be the repository of hatred and vengeance and the guiding force in how we treat one another. 

We must be willing to acknowledge beliefs preferred to be hidden, beliefs that lead to projection and scapegoating of those who are different; beliefs that ultimately contribute to the illness of individuals and of nations. Anytime one’s value and identity are based on the diminishment of another human being, what inevitably follows is the construction and maintenance of systems of power and practices that exist to sustain the inequality and that suffocate our humanity, spirit, creativity and progress. 

We are battling the fires from an eruption of the shadow, composed of what has been repeatedly suppressed and ignored for decades. The flames will once again be quelled and when they are, we must not breathe a sigh of relief. It will just be the beginning of the real work. It won’t be easy but if we truly want to ensure that no human being deserves to suffer and die from having the knee of oppression on their necks, we will do what we can in whatever capacity we have to change ourselves first and then work to change the systems that perpetuate inequality, that burn with humanity and respect for the dignity of every human being, that bring light to the world.