We received the following post from Matthew Timberlake in the wake of the murderous evil that took place last night at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. :
By Matt Timberlake
You know what you can do to end racism? You can stop it. You can make a decision, staring at your unshaven, unwashed face in the mirror, and decide you’re going to stop it. You’re going to knock it off and be a rational human being.
How many times have you been driving through that street in that part of town and you suddenly make the spontaneous decision to lock your car door because you saw someone shady? And just in time, too, because moments later their menacing face is pressed against the glass of your driver side window, rotten teeth and chapped lips conjuring an ancient evil curse, eyes starving for your money, your iPhone, your soul.
Never. It’s never happened. And do you know why? Because people are good. Poor people are good. Rich people are good. Unemployed people are good. Teenagers are good. Groups of men are good. People talking with their neighbors on their street are good. So stop being such a wimp, stand with your back straight, and be a good person too.
According to some more-or-less credentialed internet research, less than 4% of the U.S. population are in some form of correctional control, and of those, something like 40% have committed violent crimes. Applying my shaky math skills, I get a figure: 1.6%.
In a random pool of 100 people, one or two people are violent criminals. And this doesn’t mean 1.6% of the population murders everyone they meet, on sight. It means at some point in their lives they behaved violently toward a person.
In fact, the vast majority of violent crime is committed by people acquainted with the victim, and are irregular incidents in the perpetrator’s life.
So stop being scared of your neighbors. Just stop it. Realize what an egocentric fallacy it is to assume that people walking down the street want to kill you for your Discover card and Toyota Yaris and make some freaking friends.
Go to a street festival and hang out with real humans. There are dozens, all over Memphis and Shelby County. Juneteenth, Israel Fest, Blues on the Bluff, the Delta Fair, North Mississippi Hill Country Blues Picnic. You know what they have at all of them? Kids, cheeseburgers, Cokes, beer, jumpy castles, contests, free water bottles, art, music, and 1.6% violent criminals. The other 98.4% are awesome.
Go to a museum you’ve never been to. Go to Slavehaven, the Pink Palace, the Belz Museum of Asian & Judaic Art, the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center, the Veteran’s Museum, the Black Arts Alliance, Graceland, Stax, Bass Pro Shops. Know what they have at these? They have regional culture, context, historical insight, stories, magic, myth, awesome junk, treasures, and 1.6% violent criminals. The other 98.4% are awesome.
Go to a restaurant you’ve never been to, in a weird part of town. Go to Jerusalem Market, La Guadalupana, Kaloum Restaurant, Mortimer’s, the Little Tea Shop, DWJ Korean BBQ and Sushi, the Four Way, Lester’s Grill, Ellen’s Soul Food, Hattie’s Tamales. You know what they have there? If you haven’t been, you have no idea, you lazy slacker. Go to these places and talk to the people that make the food. They know what’s up, they have great advice. Eat neck bones and falafel and kimchee and oysters. Share a table with 1.6% violent criminals. They’re there for the stuffed avocado, too. The other 98.4% are awesome.
Go to a new park with your kids and let them loose. Teach them ‘hola’ and ‘como se llamas’ and ‘how are you, do you want to play?’ Watch them closely and take a lesson. Look at them hug their new friends and share a Hi-C. Watch them teach each other games. Watch them learn new words for stuff, new jokes to tell, new names to give their stuffed animals at home. Share a smile with the other parents, 1.6% of whom are violent criminals. The other 98.4% are awesome.
Go to the International Farmers Market and buy stuff you’ve never heard of. If you see someone in exotic clothes buying something weird, ask them what it is and what to do with it.
Take a bunch of your friends to a play at Hattiloo Theatre and stay after and meet the actors. Go see Playback Memphis perform their Memphis Matters series and hear stories from the people in the city.
Go to the Tuesday free concert at Stax this summer, featuring the Stax Academy Alumni Band, all at home in Memphis from college, their first few semesters at places like Berklee, Julliard, the University of Indiana. Go see a free show at the Levitt Shell in Overton Square. They do something like 650 a year or something. Sit in the audience (1.6% violent criminals) and bask in the groove.
And once you’ve had your mind blown by the actual wonder of humanity with whom we have the privilege to share our world-famous, legendary city, stop it. Stop taking the worst from the news. Stop using words you have to whisper. Stop making magical myth of isolated incidents. Stop spooking yourself.
Yes, you are a mortal creature in a living world. Yes, there are dangers. You might eat a bacterial chicken leg, you might have an anvil fall on you, you might be stung to death by hornets, you might get a rare wasting disease, you might fall into a sinkhole, you might have a car broken into, you might be hit up for spare change, you might get looked at.
But you also might eat your new favorite food, hear your new favorite song, meet your soul mate, get a new tattoo, find your calling, discover a passion. You might live a little and thrive. In fact, the odds are in your favor that things will not just come out okay; you might just make yourself better than you were yesterday.
And just for the record, 1.6% of people reading this are violent criminals. The other 98.4% are awesome.