My dearest Lila, Aleena, and Yara,
Today, I want to discuss the insidious nature of hypocrisy. I will share the examples of hypocrisy and lack of meaningful action from us. Hopefully, you will pick up tips on how you can monitor practices of hypocrisy and inaction and in doing so effect real change in the world. This is a serious topic, and I am glad Suraj — your father and godfather — helped with this year’s letter.
There is still 2 months left in the year, but people are eager for the year to be over. Last year, I wrote about how much I was looking forward to 2020 — a year of clarity. It has been anything but clear. We are in the middle of a global pandemic and America is facing the most significant racial tension since the civil rights movement of the 1960s. This was a moment where we needed desperately to unite around our common values; a moment where our first-rights, the right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, should have presented a clear path out of these challenging times. But we are more divided than ever and more focused on our divisions.
We are now 8 months into the COVID-19 pandemic. On Feb. 27th, we had 15 reported cases. On that day, our leaders dismissed the threat. We heard that it would miraculously disappear. Since then, we have had over 8.6 million cases in the US alone with more than 225,000 deaths. United States has 4.25% of the world’s population, but we have over 20% of the total cases and deaths. The loss is profound; it is at the scale of wars and famines. This outcome, without context, will seem absurd to you. Here is the context: leadership continued to deny there was a problem and didn’t require people to follow safety measures while undermining and belittling the scientists and the public health community who desperately sought resources and reasonable measures to contain the spread of the virus. The leaders did this in the name of “freedom” and us-versus-them ideological posturing. For example, our leaders did not push for a mask mandate across the country.
Our leaders talk about loving America, but love is about uniting; it is about nurturing and commitment to each other. They have failed to keep us safe. It is hypocrisy and inaction.
Our leaders denied, our people died.
This summer, we saw a string of protests around cities in America about systemic racism. We also saw rioting and looting. This is not the normal behavior of free people. Conditions must be so bad and people must feel so desperate, hopeless, and oppressed for them to react in this manner. If you are Black in America, you are more likely to be incarcerated, get lower quality health care, get less education, be unemployed, be harassed by law enforcement, live among degraded infrastructure, and, now, get coronavirus. Leadership, however, has put a magnifying glass on the property damage and need for “law and order”. The hypocrisy is particularly potent here, because people are effectively saying (from the comfort of their status as the non-oppressed) that they wouldn’t react violently; that they wouldn’t be so angry; that they would be “better”. Their inaction on fixing things and making the black community whole has led us to this point.
Today, you are learning to read, write, and be creative. Your black friends are learning to survive and avoid trouble. We must do better.
As we head into the elections this year, our leadership’s assessment of their performance is that is it has been outstanding both in terms of the pandemic and for advancing the liberty of black people. Perhaps this is greatest hypocrisy of our times: our leaders have absolved themselves of all the issues that have arisen under their watch.
This election is about taking action. Do we stand down or stand up?
While it is ok to hold our leaders to the highest standards, at the end of the day we are responsible for our own actions. No matter what they do, we are the keeper of our souls. Our hypocrisy and inaction matter as well.
We will be asked: what did you do when a quarter million of your neighbors died from an invisible threat? What did you do when George Floyd was choked to death by police officers? What did you do when Ahmaud Arbery was gunned down while jogging? What did you do when the environment was sacrificed for profits? What did you do when people “liked” and “shared” rumors and lies on social media, but ignored the facts? What did you do when you had a chance to change the world?
We cannot say we were told to turn the other way or that we were too busy or that virtue was not convenient. Building a persona is cheap, focus on building your character. Your character will be hollow if you talk like you care but do nothing of substance to help others.
I am trying to make a difference. I actively take part in social justice causes. I am contributing to campaigns to get people out to vote. I am learning more about the racial history of this country and trying to eliminate my biases and blind spots.
There will always be challenges — personal, professional, social. Many of the challenges are caused by others. You cannot control everything and there will always be distractions. But if you go to sleep at night knowing that you tried to harmonize what you say with what you do, you will have more resolve the next day to say and do more good things.
The world will be a better place because of your actions.
The letters from the past 7 years: