How Long No Harbor?

Recent events at The University of Missouri centered on student protests that have led to the resignation of the two top executive officers over their unwillingness to deal effectively with events on campus of a decidedly racist nature.  Thirty of the players–identifying themselves as players of color, had refused to practice or play until the President resigned his office.  This piece by the NY Times confirms that the protesting players were “players of color” who received the backing of their coaches and many of their white teammates.  It remains that others on the team did not support the boycott.

There is unrest across our country in various venues around issues of race.  To put it more bluntly, people whose skin is not as light as mine find themselves continually mistreated by those whose skin is as light or lighter than mine. Campuses, businesses, police relations, churches, shopping districts–there seems to be no place where Americans gather that this poison of human mistreatment of humans based on all that skin color means to us (which we have found no real way to talk about out loud in public) doesn’t infect.  That reality alone creates in this nation a false sense of harbor for people of light skin color and no harbor at all anywhere for people of darker skin color.

The events at The University of Missouri are still unfolding.  That conversation about the football team left me wondering.  How often do those of us who enjoy a false sense of safety simply do nothing because, well, we just aren’t disturbed enough by events to take action?  How deeply disconnected do these false harbors leave us from each other–those who generally always feel safe from those who almost never and nowhere feel safe?

This question identifies for me the place that I feel the rising storm.  How long do we who enjoy a false harbor expect those who are always frightened, always threatened to stand around and watch us feel safe?  Too often, the dynamic of the false harbor includes our own fears that going “out there” and involving ourselves in conversations and actions for deeper and broader human rights might bring us face to face with angry, harborless people.  That’s why it’s a false harbor.  It does not offer safety and security.  It only breeds deep fear and disrespect in those who enjoy the false harbor, and it oppresses and devastates those who never enjoy harbor.  Ultimately, the false harbor creates the very anger and outrage that we in the false harbor fear.  False harbor creates the storm that will devastate us all.

Is it too late to leave the false harbor and embrace our human family?  Is it still possible to create real harbor for everyone?

Bob Patrick

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