For weeks now the United States has been the setting of heavy unrest stemming from anger over racial inequality, pressing reforms to address police brutality and a sweeping Black Lives Matter movement that’s made its way from Minneapolis to cities around the country — and the world.
It’s no doubt that 2020 carries massive weight when we consider the historical implications of everything that’s been happening since January.
But in such an era-defining year, I feel as though we’re witnessing societal divisions on all fronts in America. Trump supporters against those pushing for Biden. Mask-wearers against those who don’t want to listen to the advice of health officials. Advocates for strict lockdowns against fighters of economic freedom.
Those who support the Black Lives Matter movement pitted against those who are against it.
Last night in Boston, I witnessed the physical embodiment of our deeply-rooted societal divisions. At a rotary, a Black Lives Matter protest stood opposite a pro-police rally. It was the first time in weeks at the protests that I’ve seen the two groups meet in person.
The tension at the rotary was tangible. “Black Lives Matter” signs were met with “Blue Lives Matter” signs. Candles and signs with the names of black people killed by police were met with flags and Trump 2020 gear. Repeating “No justice, no peace” chants were met with unified singing of “God Bless America.”
In the middle of the rotary, news media snapped photographs as cars drove by honking constantly. At some points, the noise was deafening.
One red truck drove around the rotary dozens of times with a sign in the bed that read “God bless the USA and Police. SHAME on SPINELESS Politicians and corrupt MEDIA.”
Pro-police demonstrators walked and drove by the group of Black Lives Matter protesters, flashing the middle finger and screaming profanity. Many would taunt the group, waving flags or posters in their faces without any retaliation from the black-clad group.
Those protesting for the Black Lives Matter movement were peaceful and routinely held long moments of silence, complimented by various chants for justice and police reform.
There’s always rhetoric about the divisions we face in our society, and you can read about it online, but nothing compares to seeing it live. Two groups, right next to each other, fighting for very different causes that they believe are just.
Divisions embedded throughout American society are disheartening to begin with, and it’s a massive blow to see one side show such disrespect and disregard for the other. Verbally attacking those who are peacefully and, more or less quietly, rallying on behalf of Black Lives Matter, is not an appropriate way to make your voice heard — even if you share a different viewpoint. Criticizing the media for being corrupt doesn’t help, either.
As a deeply divided America painfully limps through the summer to a critical 2020 election, we find ourselves navigating two major crises: racism and coronavirus. Somehow, there are two sides to both these issues — revolving around humanitarian values and public health — which shouldn’t be contentious topics.
Witnessing this division only strengthens the urgency to examine how we got to this point. Racial justice shouldn’t have barricades, and public health shouldn’t have a separate agenda. These are important issues and should be treated by everyone as such — at this point, there’s no room for apathy.
This summer should be a time for Americans to reflect on our values, and what we want to see from our nation going forth. It is far better to reminisce on our accomplishments — like tackling racism and squashing a pandemic — than dwell on our failures to grow and achieve.
A fractured America is weak, and we need strength now more than ever.