Leslie Fields-Cruz
May 17, 2022




By Leslie Fields-Cruz

Photo by Brett Sayles, at Pexels

We Must Do Better

Imagine a society where unarmed people of color aren’t getting gunned down regularly by hate-filled White men wielding automatic weapons. A society where the halls of justice aren’t so tilted in favor of incarcerating what too often feels like “just us.” One where misguided teenagers get the support and direction they need to grow into well-adjusted, productive adults instead of gun wielding menaces who terrorize their families and fellow citizens. Sounds nice, huh?

Unfortunately, that’s not the society we live in. But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work toward it. 

Last weekend’s tragedies in Buffalo, N.Y., and  Laguna Woods, Calif., are the latest in a long series of bloodletting events involving firearms, hate-inspired assailants and their unarmed victims. The stories are depressing. I can’t help thinking, what if the shooters had never encountered White nationalism or anti-Taiwanese dogma? What if they had been denied a right to purchase the firearms and tactical gear they used? What if someone in their lives had intervened before they ever left their homes, schools, neighborhoods, cities? What if the mass shootings that occurred before these had been the LAST MASS SHOOTINGS?

Call me overly optimistic, but I refuse to believe there is nothing we can do to end this wretched cycle. Some of you know that I teach and direct youth theater in a small neck of the woods just north of NYC. The players are a diverse group of primarily Black and Brown students. This spring we’ve embarked on a project intended for a Juneteenth celebration. Unlike last year’s program, where we examined Juneteenth through an historical lens, this year I’ve charged my students to imagine Juneteenth in 2165, in a society that is equitable, inclusive and just. What does this world look like and how do we get there? They are still working on some wild ideas out of space aliens living, marrying, and working among us — but what’s important about this exercise is they imagine a society that is better than the one in which they live, and second, they start to build the road to get us there.  

I know that millions of people like me reject the “isms” that cause so much discord and distrust in our society. We work in pursuit of a more equitable and just society, because we have already imagined it. We commit to being better so that, collectively, we can all DO BETTER. 

What does doing better look like for public media? We must ask ourselves: How has the way we’ve traditionally told the American story contributed to the false narrative that there’s only one way to be a patriot? What more can we do to expose the powerful who abuse their power? How can we tell more stories that perpetuate the understanding that equity and inclusion benefit ALL Americans? And how can our programming, funding and distribution choices demonstrate that the freedoms our Constitution guarantees don’t give Americans the right to do whatever we want, whenever and wherever we want, with no regard to how our actions impact others?  

We can’t fix everything today, and if I’m brutally honest, I know I won’t live to see the world that I imagine, but that’s alright. Because it’s the work that I do today that will lead to a better world for my descendants. 

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