The phrase "they are trying to divide us" has become a staple in political rhetoric, particularly from conservative corners, whenever there is an outburst of social unrest or protest. On the surface, it appears to be a genuine call for unity and togetherness. Delve deeper, however, and the phrase becomes murky, revealing layers of subterfuge and manipulation. While unity is an admirable aspiration, it is crucial to ask: unity for what purpose? Unity under which conditions? Unity on whose terms? The plea for cohesion and togetherness can be perceived as disingenuous when it is juxtaposed against the backdrop of systemic discrimination, racism, and socio-economic disparity that often triggers the unrest in the first place.
The history of racial oppression in many nations, including the United States, is long and brutal. However, the phrase "they are trying to divide us" is strategically trotted out primarily during moments when marginalized communities publicly and collectively revolt against the system, lending their voices and bodies to demand justice, equality, and acknowledgment of their humanity. It's ironic that those who use this phrase are often the same individuals who dismiss the very concerns these communities are raising. They purport to seek unity but undermine the very essence of what true unity would entail — a recognition of existing inequities and a genuine commitment to rectifying them.
By invoking this phrase during tumultuous times, what is essentially being sought is not unity in the truest sense of the word. Instead, it's a call for compliance, a plea for silence, a bid for the maintenance of the status quo. It's an effort to recruit the very individuals that they habitually ignore, if not deride, into a false sense of harmony that glosses over the systemic issues at hand.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assertion that "protest is the voice of the unheard" shines a spotlight on the inherent hypocrisy of such a call for unity. For many, protesting is not a spontaneous act of disruption, but a deeply felt response to prolonged periods of being "unheard, unseen, and uncared for." Demanding that these voices lower their volume or be silenced without addressing the root causes of their grievances, is not a plea for unity. It's a perpetuation of racial oppression.
It's vital that we as a society discern the nuances in such rhetoric. True unity cannot be built on the sands of ignorance or denial but on the solid rock of mutual understanding, empathy, and commitment to rectifying historical wrongs. If unity is the goal, then let it be an authentic unity, one that embraces and acknowledges the painful truths of our past and present, and works earnestly towards a just future for all.