Vu Le (“voo lay”) is a writer, speaker, vegan, Pisces, and the Executive Director of Rainier Valley Corps, a nonprofit in Seattle that promotes social justice by developing leaders of color, strengthening organizations led by communities of color, and fostering collaboration between diverse communities.
Hi everyone. If you have been reading the news this weekend about the white supremacists, hooded KKK members, and Nazis protesting in Charlottesville and the car the plowed into counter-protesters, killing several and injuring dozens of others, and our president’s cowardly response blaming “both sides,” you may be feeling a combination of weariness and hopelessness and anger. And fear for the people we love and for our country, the United States. This feeling has become familiar these past few months. I don’t really know what to say in this post. I know the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends…I don’t know. In recent months it seems that this arc is bending the opposite way, toward injustice, racism, misogyny, bigotry. “The heat here is nothing compared to what you’re going to get in the ovens,” says a white supremacist in the protest. It seems our side, the side that fights for inclusivity and justice and compassion, is losing.
A while ago, a colleague of mine, Nancy Long of 501 Commons, shared with me her philosophy of cultivating gratitude and impatience and how we must work toward a balance between the two, the balance of appreciating what we have, but to be impatient and to use that energy to push for change. This concept has stuck with me over the years; it is wise counsel on some of the darkest days.
Reflecting on Nancy’s words, I realize the horrible events and the state of generalized fear and anxiety of the past few months require us to balance something more difficult than Gratitude and Impatience, and that is Grace and Anger.
We must be angry, because the danger of not being angry is that we become complacent. We acquiesce to injustice instead of confronting it. We accept racism and xenophobia as normal, as part of the natural order or free speech or whatever, instead of seeing these things for the horrors that they are.
But we must also have grace, which is something I’ve been finding harder and harder to summon of late. Without grace, we turn on each other instead of on the wrongs we are committed to righting. Without grace, we see “the other side” not as humans, and we get confused about who is actually on the other side. Without it, we don’t forgive ourselves for our failings and we give in to despair and hopelessness.