From the Editors: Will Love Find A Way?
Feb. 10, 2021
Some say love, it is a river. Others say love is a battlefield. But with all due respect to Bette Midler and Pat Benatar, perhaps 17th century French moralist François de La Rochefoucauld said it best when he said "True love is like ghosts, which everyone talks about and few have seen." To paraphrase, we want to know what love is. Now if only someone, anyone, could show us — [sipping coffee] um yeah, that'd be great.
Come Valentine's Day and the weeks that follow — the tail end of so-called "cuffing season" — it's customary to reflect on this elusive, abstract, inscrutable force that permeates our quest for fulfillment and purpose. For the more jaded among us who refer to the Feast of St. Valentine as "Singles Awareness Day," it's an occasion to either dwell on slights and shortcomings or, more constructively, reconnect with who we are and what we have to offer.
For centuries now, both in Erie and throughout the country, the Black community has long been left to ponder "Where is the love?" Despite having given so much and having so much yet to give to humanity, people of color are still disrespected and marginalized on a systemic level. Millions of Black men, women, and children wake up everyday feeling unappreciated and alone, without an active partner in our "integrated" society, swept aside into a redlined corner to be neglected, expected to "keep to themselves." This is its own form of solitary confinement.
If two are to actually become one — if a truly egalitarian, sustainable relationship is to be built — there must be not only the acknowledgment of injustice and inequality, but an openness and willingness to work to correct these imbalances. If, as American-German philosopher Paul Tillich said, "the first duty of love is to listen," why do we so seldom listen?
Decisions concerning the former site of Erie Coke, the future site of the IRG plastics recycling plant, and proposed modifications to the Bayfront Parkway disproportionately affect lower-income, predominantly Black residents of Erie's East Bayfront neighborhoods. If Erie is a home to all of us, shouldn't everyone have a say about what we might be inviting in? Who looks out for it, walks with it, cleans up after it? Whose room does it sleep in? Would you bring home a stray direwolf without first consulting your spouse?
It is also often said of love that it is patient and it is kind. But how long can one reasonably wait to feel embraced and included? As much as we must treasure the stories of impactful African Americans of Erie's past (like Wendell King and Emma Gertrude Lawrence), we must also champion those like Sonya Byes and Antonio Howard making a difference now. If love keeps no record of wrongs, will we expunge the criminal records of African Americans who've been arrested or incarcerated for nothing other than simple possession of cannabis? When marijuana is fully legalized, as most expect, will Black America be able to profit to the same degree that it's been punished?
Like true love, social justice is often talked about but rarely seen. It's time we give up the ghost for something tangible.