The spring quarter of my first year back in college I took a rethinking diversity class. It was one of the first opportunities to analyze different systems of oppression and provided me with tangible examples of how they work in our lives. One day in class we were having a discussion about solutions to these problems we face as a country. Still relatively new to the subject of social justice and intoxicated with the New Age section of Barnes and Noble, I raised my hand and suggested to a room of about 35 students, that the best thing we could do is love each other. If we used love then all of our problems would be resolved. This sparked a lively debate until class ended. A lot of people agreed with it, some felt like it wasn’t enough. Afterwards, a handful of (white) students from Greek Row approached me and said how much they appreciated my response. I thanked them and continued my walked in the rain puddle soaked campus of UW. Initially, something felt off but I couldn’t put my finger on it.
It would take a few years before I would come to realize my mistake. After countless hours of studying and examining from various angles and perspectives of our society and the systems, history, institutions, culture, and laws put into place that have led us to our current oppressive circumstance, I discovered responding with love was not necessarily the wrong answer but definitely an incomplete one. And when it is used haphazardly, serves more so as a form of diversion away from addressing the problem. When we discuss racial issues, using blanket statements such as, “well the best thing we can do is love each other” nullifies any productive dialogue that could be had. It’s similar to saying all lives matter. It more so serves as a way to silence any challenge to the status quo. It has an emotional charge that pulls at the heart string but doesn’t offer any concrete solution. If we all just professed that we loved each other that wouldn’t stop wealth disparities in this country, that doesn’t remove the oppressive cultural symbols that dehumanize groups of people, that doesn’t remove racist laws and policies on the books, that doesn’t stop police brutality– it does absolutely nothing other than stop a conversation from moving forward. So then the question is that really love?
Now don’t get me wrong, love is a component to changing the world for the better. I agree with that. I think a deep love for yourself, our people, and the planet we live on would be quite beneficial for all of us. So with that being said, is telling people to use love a proper solution to solving the race problem in America? No. Absolutely not. In terms of race relations, simply suggesting we love one another without loving action to back it up does more harm than good. Loving action is removing all messages from the mainstream media that dehumanize Brown and Black people. Loving action is not destroying the land we live on for the sake of oil profits. Loving action is redistributing resources to communities that are in dire need. And that is to just name a few. Love is a radical act that pushes for growth. If it does not do that then it is not love to me but simply an anemic sentimentality.
If people that are suggesting to use love are the same people in support of the status quo then I question their sincerity. The status quo in America is far from loving. In fact it is the complete opposite of love. The status quo is what this country’s patriotism and nationalism is based off of. This patriotism is inextricably linked to genocide, wars of aggression, and slavery. How could that line of thinking also propose we use love to solve our problems? For me, this is another example of all lives matter just simply said differently. The people that proclaim all lives matter, by and large, exhibit contradicting behavior that doesn’t support that claim. If “love” is the strategy put forth by people that benefit from the privileges that this country has to offer and which doesn’t fundamentally challenge the system that awarded them those unearned privileges, then that love is a love I could do without.