I Have No Answers
All are welcome here is a political statement.
So is Some are welcome here.
Should they be?
Who gets to decide?
Is the second a statement that
Is it a statement about the some
or the not-some, the rest, the others?
Who gets to decide?
The speaker or the listener?
Is what matters intent or impact?
Eighty years ago an establishment could post a sign saying
“Coloreds not welcome”
and the intent was clear: exclusion.
Would a sign saying “Coloreds welcome” mean the same:
all who are not colored are excluded?
Or would it mean the colored are included along with the rest?
I grew up with the song
“Jesus Loves the Little Children.”
All the children of the world the lyrics went
Red, brown, yellow, Black and white
It spelled it out, that “all.”
It listed the skin tones
to emphasize their inclusion.
If I sing a partial lyric—
“Jesus loves Black children”—
does that merely highlight a part of the song,
emphasize or make note of a part of the whole?
Or does it make a new song and cancel the rest?
If I say the song mentions Jesus loves Black children
does that imply he hates red, brown, yellow, and white?
Assumed exclusion; implied negation.
If I say “I love dogs” does that mean I hate cats?
If Mozart is my favorite is Beethoven then slandered?
When I savor a steak do I debase all salad?
Who gets to decide
whether I have and
what my words mean?
Is my intent behind them all that matters?
Or do others determine the impact regardless of what I meant?
Some say wearing a mask to prevent the spread of Covid-19
makes a political statement about those who don't or can't or won't.
Some say saying “Black Lives Matter”
makes a political statement about lives that aren't Black.
Do you get to decide the meaning behind my intent?
Do I get to decide for you?
Are these things personal? Individual choices and freedoms?
Or are they political, attempting to influence who we are together?
Who gets to decide if I'm being personal or political?
Some, all, or me?
If I am your host
and you feel unwelcome by my Black Lives Matter pin
am I at fault?
Am I failing as a host?
Do I need to “correct” my behavior to change the way you feel?
If I have a library or school or public space
that is intended as welcome to all
and I display a Black Lives Matter sign
meant to particularly indicate inclusion
and you feel it means something different,
that others are less welcome than Black in comparison,
have I done something wrong?
Who owns your perception?
Is my intent or my impact decisive?
(Because in similar but reverse situations,
when you intend something harmless
that I perceive as racially harmful,
I would say the impact outweighs the intent.)
(If I attempt to restrain you and you die
have I committed murder?)
I'm sure there are professionals who study this kind of thing,
philosophers and ethicists and the like,
who have formal systems for determining answers
to my many questions,
who know how to weigh
one benefit against another,
one harm against another,
one intent against another,
one freedom and right against other freedoms and rights,
when they compete against each other,
when one would cancel the other,
and reach decisive conclusions.
They are not me.
I'm stuck in my questions,
unsure how to proceed.
they are not you.
How do we negotiate this,
me and you?
I'm not sure who gets to decide.