I have an idea that came to me as I was on my flight home from San Francisco watching live reports of the violence toward police officers and looting in Baltimore as well as the streaming headlines about the enormous loss of life in Nepal. My idea reinterprets the concept of environmental offsetting such as paying for carbon offsets when you drive or fly somewhere to reduce your carbon footprint.
What if we extended the idea of offsetting to compensate for humanitarian crises as well? What if when we saw destruction we decided to build something? What if when we saw looting, we decided to patronize the business that was destroyed by thugs? What if when we see destruction somewhere, we find some way to improve our communities? If anyone has any great ideas about how to offset racial tensions, I’m all ears because I’m at a loss as to how to offset the deaths of too many young black men and the hands of a few misguided police officers. The circumstances of the death of Freddy Gray must be investigated and those responsible must be held accountable but wrong-doing in the name of wrong-doing makes no sense. Of course donating to the International Red Cross is one way of offsetting but I think there is something powerful in participating in an activity that reminds us that we have the power to create good, to build, to rescue, to improve, and to love in the face of hate.
I think a way to offset is to personally extend gracious equality to young black men you meet – the opposite of the micro-aggressions they constantly receive. I’m thinking things like offering the seat next to you on the train to the young black man with gold chains and braids. Or smiling and saying hi as you pass a young man of color on the street. Or choosing to stand next to the “thuggish” looking man on the elevator instead of next to the ‘safe’ person. A lot of time things we don’t even think twice about are yet another small cut to a person of color. Even when no ill intent exists, the question in the black person’s mind of “Did that happen because I am black or would it have happened to anyone?” is exhausting and demoralizing.