Hitting the Reset Button on 2014 (Living More Peaceably in the Year to Come)

DiceIn a little less than 24 hours, 2014 will be over. 2015 will be here. As I reflect over the last year, however, I honestly don’t think that we are ready for it.

We are not ready for 2015 because we still have not learned from the mistakes of 2014. We have not made much progress, we have not evolved, we have not learned to treat each other with the love, dignity, and respect that each of us deserves. Injustice abounds.

Consider the following news stories:

In April, TMZ leaked recordings of Los Angeles Clippers owner, Donald Sterling racist views towards black people. Not only did the situation call into question his role with the NBA, but it also brought his discriminatory housing practices to the public eye.

Also in April, 276 girls were abducted from the Federal Government College in the town of Chibok in Borno State, Nigeria by Boko Haram. Boko Haram, an extremist militant group against Western education, reportedly kidnapped the girls for the purpose of forcing them into marriage or selling them off as slaves to members of the group. 261 days later, over 200 girls are still missing.

A humanitarian crisis developed along the US border with Mexico this year as children from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatamela left their countries for refuge. While the crisis has been ongoing for several years, late 2013 and 2014 saw an increase in those attempting to cross the border as a result of poverty and violence in their home countries. To make a sad situation even sadder, many Americans have been inhospitable to the children, going so far as to send the children back to their countries riddled with violence and gangs.

Over the summer, we also saw an uptick in the ongoing Israeli-Palenstinan conflict when 3 Israeli students were murdered. The murders sparked a ground invasion of Gaza, killing 68 Israelis and 1,890 Palestinians (as of August 6).

Eric Garner. Mike Brown, John Crawford. Ezell Ford. Darrien Hunt. Tanesha Anderson, Akai Gurley. Tamir Rice. Rumian Brisbon. All black men, women, and children killed by the police in 2014 alone. This doesn’t take into account the number of black people who have been killed at the hands of self-appointed defenders of the law. According to some estimates, a black man, woman or child is killed by the police or one of those self-appointed folks, at least every 28 hours, exposing the country’s unholy bent toward racism and white supremacy. Adding insult to injury, the officers who were behind these tragedies whose cases have gone to the grand jury in their respective states have not been indicted.

In September, a group of 43 Mexican students  in route to a protest disappeared. Reportedly, the Mexican government was behind the student’s disappearance and subsequent death.

These are just a few stories. But let us not forget about the plane that was shot down over the Ukraine. Isis. The ongoing crisis in Syria. Cosby. Ray Rice. DIsproportionate handling (including inaccurate myths) of the Ebola Crisis. Crimea. The Hong Kong Protests. #IamJada. Mark Driscoll. South Korean ferry capsizing. Street harassment (#YouOkSis). Keystone Pipeline. While each of these stories are different, they each reflect our collective inability to live in peace with each other. Each story reveals a desire by some entity usually in a place of power, to steal, kill, marginalize and oppress those with little power or no voice.

Instead of leaping into 2015, I wish that we could hit the reset button on 2014 and do it over. I wish we could go back to January 1 and make better decisions, refusing to treat those who are different from us, those who don’t look like us, those who don’t believe like us, with contempt. If that were possible, the girls in Chobok would still be in school, the children at the border would have been welcomed with open arms, and Eric Garner, Mike Brown and Tamir Rice would still be alive.

Unfortunately, however, we can’t do that. We will end 2014 knowing that the atrocities over the past year are still a present reality. But, we can make the decision to not repeat these same injuries in the coming year. Each of us can go into the New Year committed to do justice and live peaceably.

Here are a few ways how:

  1. Overcome your individual biases: In this excellent TedTalk, diversity advocate Vernā Myers explores some of the attitudes that each of us holds towards people who are different from ourselves. Myers suggests that the only way to overcome our biases is to acknowledge them and to embrace the people that would otherwise make us uncomfortable.
  2. Become a reconciler: Reconciliation can be described as the process of reuniting two groups who were previously at odds with each other. If we think about many of the stories that have taken place over 2014, from police brutality to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, reconciliation is particularly needed (as is the toppling of imperialistic structures that marginalize the oppressed in both of these contexts. Another post for another time). This timely post by Christena Cleveland lays out 5 ways that people can start working for reconciliation today.
  3. Commit to live of life of justice: In a society, and world for that matter, that is so unjust, it is expedient that we learn how to live a life of justice. Over the course of this summer, I introduced a series, The Lord’s Prayer as a Social Justice Theology, that explores the ways that we can do just that.
  4. Learn and study history: I have to be honest with you. History never used to be a favorite of mine. But as my passion for social justice has increased, I have realized the need to learn and study history. History, when it is told correctly (usually from the perspective of the oppressed) helps us to better understand our present context. Here are two pieces that I recommend: (1) Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Case for Reparations (I honest recommend reading everything by him). (2) PBS’ Slavery by Another Name.
  5. Love as if your life depended on it (because it does): In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

Here’s to a better, more loving, more justice-filled 2015!
           “I am in no way optimistic, but I remain a prisoner of hope” – Cornel West

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