To help bring our community together in a time of extreme polarization, LebTown has invited a variety of community leaders to share columns this week on the topic of unitedness and healing.

We feel this topic is important to discuss given the unprecedented protest activity we witnessed across the nation last week, as well as the increased stress felt right now by many due to the ongoing public health and economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

If you would like to submit your own column to LebTown, please start by reading our guidelines here.

Our country collectively witnessed the brutal murder of George Floyd on May 25, and we have been witness to too many others who have died similarly and without justification. Our nation is grieving these deaths and railing against systems of unequal accountability – systems which are hundreds of years in the making. This movement is rooted in our nation’s collective grief, loss, anger, and despair over the senseless murder of yet another black man caught up in a system of bias that leads to violence.

A LebTown editorialist recently pointed out that there exists good and bad in all races of people, and she is correct. There exists good and bad in all professions. There are ethical sales people, and there are those who will swindle you. There are mechanics who fix only what’s broken and those who profit from fixing what isn’t in addition to what is. There are good officers who serve and protect all people, and there are those who can’t because they are unaware of or won’t admit to their biases. Luckily, biases can be changed if people are willing to recognize them.

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It’s not a quick fix, and it’s not as simple as saying everyone is the same. The implicit biases that exist in our community regarding inequality need to be addressed. Colorblindness is a fallacy. We’ve heard many voices instructing us to look beyond a person’s color or not to see color at all, but rather to see people as human beings just like us; when this comes from a position of privilege, it minimizes others’ experiences. This notion projects feelings familiar to you and invalidates others’ life experiences.

In 1952, Ralph Ellison wrote his novel “The Invisible Man” to combat this brand of unconscious bias. In his prologue he writes, “I am an invisible man. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination–indeed, everything and anything except me.” There is a paradox in the answer to how we begin to move forward in unity, because in order to come together, we must first acknowledge and affirm our differences. We must acknowledge that growing up black in America does not create the same schema as growing up white does. Once we acknowledge our differences, we can begin to work towards resolution and honor our separate experiences. We must begin to give space for different narratives in our world view in order to broaden our perspectives. This will not happen with blinders on.

Ascribing to a philosophy of colorblindness results in not seeing people for who they fully are. You are acknowledging only a shell of their existence. You are in effect erasing a part of them that is integral to their personal identity. This is dehumanizing. This is marginalizing. This is not justice for all. This is not equality. Sameness was never meant to be a construct of equality. True equality is bearing witness to our differences, affirming them, and celebrating them so we all can enjoy life, experience liberty, and be free to pursue individual happiness.

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When we resolve to acknowledge our differences and give power to them, we will begin healing and be able to move toward reforming a system of accountability that prioritizes equity. When we walk together in that journey, we will begin to unite and heal.

Amy Keller is a Lebanon City Councilperson.

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