Seriously, I want to erase the word should from about 90% of the sentences I hear it in. The word ‘should’ has always denoted a sort of hope and expectation. We always hear things like “Well, it should work like this” or “Things should be a certain way.” But the reality of the situation is that they simply are not. When your mother told you that “Coulda, woulda, shoulda don’t amount to a hill of beans,” she wasn’t being mean or trying to crush your dreams. She was trying, in that way only a mother can, to teach you that more often than not, our reality wins over our wishes. Lately there have been a number of events in the United States and around the world that strictly contradict the way we see things – the way things should be. My argument for banishing the word should is not so much an argument against hope or raised expectations. Rather, my issue with the word should lies with an overall lack of acceptance of the reality – the way things really and truly are.
To illustrate my point, I will examine a few issues that have cropped up over and over again, for the last few months (this not to say that these haven’t been longstanding problems, but these seem to have made the news more often, recently).
- The recent spate of police shootings, aimed largely at unarmed black men revealed yet again how far from how the world should be, from how the world really is. We keep talking about how we (black people) should be able to walk down the street without any interference. We should be able to ask for help without being seen as threatening. We should be given the benefit of the doubt when stopped, pulled over, questioned, questioning, etc. But the simple truth is we are not.
- Feminism and ownership of a woman’s body and sexuality has been everywhere on the news. Rape victims and the pervasive culture of rape, celebrities and their nudes, equal pay for equal work, slut shaming – these are all things that should never be in the news as issues. In 2015, women of all sizes, shapes, and hues are still consistently dealing with misogyny, discrimination and blatant sexist behavior. That is a fact! And I think we can all agree that it should not be that way. But again, the hard truth is that it is.
- The movie and music industries give awards to those artist they feel best represent their chosen art. And despite glowing reviews and respectable sales, minority (both racial and gender) are consistently left without accolade. Every year, 2015 being among the worst in recent history, the lack of diversity and representation in nominations and victors is highlighted. Blogs, news sources and reporters go on and on about how it’s should not still be that the all-white selection committee’s are allowed to omit artists whose work has clearly been exemplary. But they do and it is. And heads continue to shake.
In each of these (admittedly) broad examples the discussion of what should and should not continue to happen often precludes a discussion on what can be done to correct the situation. We need to forget how things should be and focus on how they are and on what can be, in excruciating levels of detail, done to alleviate the situation. I cannot pretend that I have all the answer, nor I can I promise that dialog will solve our problem. I can say, and experience can attest, that the current method of examining the problem with the result being reams and reams (or screens and screens) of text regaling us of the dream and how things should be isn’t keeping that determined racist, the persistent sexual harasser, nor any governing artistic body from perpetuating their beliefs on the next generation.
The conversation has been going on long enough about what’s wrong. The time has come for a conversation about what can be done to fix/change the situation. And in the occasion of a situation that cannot be solved (as I suspect the police situation likely is) we need to figure out how we as a community (whichever community is being affected) handle things to the best of our abilities. During the height of the civil rights movement, we knew how we wanted things to be, not just how they should be. They did what was needed to make things right. They earned their civil right through coordination of blood, sweat, and tears. And that’s what we need again. Our (blacks, women, black women, etc.) place in this country and in this world will have to be taken because that is what is required, not because it’s what it should be.