“Every city in our country has this kind of dualism, this schizophrenia, split at so many parts, and so every city ends up being two cities rather than one. There are two Americas.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
More than 50 years later, there are still two Americas.
This has been made abundantly clear by the recent murder of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. But it was also made abundantly clear by the recent killings of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. The killings of Michael Brown. Eric Garner. Philando Castile. And countless others.
These are the brutal symptoms of a flawed system, as old as our country, that openly privileges white lives over black ones.
In the era of cellphone recordings, the two Americas are tragically on display in vivid pixels before all of our eyes.
However, the two Americas are on display every day – for those who live it and for those willing to take but a moment to look.
“A 12-year-old (Tamir Rice) with a toy gun is a dangerous threat who must be met with lethal force; armed militias drawing beads on federal agents are heroes of liberty. Struggling white farmers in Iowa taking billions in federal assistance are hardworking Americans down on their luck; struggling single parents in cities using food stamps are welfare queens. Black Americans struggling in the cocaine epidemic are a “bio-underclass” created by a pathological culture; white Americans struggling with opioid addiction are a national tragedy.”
[Adam Serwer, The Atlantic]
As Americans, we all need to do our part to change the system.
Until Black Lives Matter, we can’t truly say anyone’s life in America matters. Black, white, Asian, Latino, Native American – we collectively make up this country. If we privilege some lives over others, we only hurt ourselves and undermine our shared agreement to create a land where “All men are created equal.”
This we owe to one another.
And as long as two Americas persist, there will be fellow citizens who choose to focus on instances of looting and not the systemic racism that is rotting the aspirations of our country. In no uncertain terms, we condemn destructive acts and violence, period. But now is not the time to judge the underlying anger of those living out the inequities of a broken system – especially when the stakes for those can be life or death.
In the words of basketball great, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, “What I want to see is not a rush to judgment, but a rush to justice.”
The injustice of our current system runs so deep that it plays itself out before some of us are even born. “In Streeterville, a neighborhood of white, affluent, college-educated families living comfortably in townhomes and high-rise condominiums along the shore of Lake Michigan, a baby born in 2015 could expect to live to 90. Eight miles south, in Englewood, a poor, black neighborhood of low-rise apartments in the shadow of Interstate 94, a baby born in 2015 could not expect to reach 60.”
[Editorial Board, The New York Times]
That is a difference of 30 years. “Please pause to consider that number.” [Editorial Board, The New York Times]
We shouldn’t have to say this, but no one chooses where he or she is born, or to which family, or which color her skin takes. And yet it seems our country will accept that a predetermined factor – totally out of any of our control – will dictate the length of our life?
That is what two Americas looks like.
Some of you may have caught our recent highlight about ‘The Run’ – our basketball community – we created in Los Angeles. We tie in ‘The Run’ because basketball is our way of bringing together people of all colors, gender, sexual orientation, nationalities, and faith.
We feel many of our problems as a country are born out of misunderstanding. It’s from this misunderstanding that we come to see each other as different and oblivious to our interconnectedness. In there being two Americas, we further enable this misunderstanding. Our bubbles and our echo chambers too often only introduce us to people who look the same as we do or expose us to ideas and opinions that confirm our existing biases.
Basketball has been our vehicle for breaking out of these bubbles. ‘The Run’ is our way of creating an environment for others to experience the same liberation. It’s the experience of bumping shoulders with people who look different than you – only to realize there’s more you share in common than the perceived differences that meet the eye – and in the process, develop a bond that can have real world implications. It’s no exaggeration to say, if not for interactions like these, there would be no Bristol Studio.
These connections slowly chip away at the wall that divides the two Americas; these connections are the foundation of a more humane America.
Our webstore will remain closed while our team considers how we can best affect change moving forward.
If you were planning on buying from us or simply want to get involved, please check out the resources below. We’ve provided basic context for each organization, candidate or cause but check them out for yourself and see what resonates with you.
Get involved at the national level:
Founded by Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy (recently made into a feature film), the EJI is committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, to challenging racial and economic injustice, and to protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) –
The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons.
The SPLC is an American non-profit legal advocacy organization specializing in civil rights and public interest litigation.
Get involved at the local level (Los Angeles):
Peoples City Council Freedom Fund –
As the mayor and city council have sought to increase the LAPD's budget during a pandemic, and as police around the country continue to kill innocent people of color, The LA PCCFF has taken to the street to protest the funding of state sanctioned murder.
This fund will go towards:
-Legal support, bail, fines, and court fees for arrested protesters
-Medical bills and transportation for injured protesters -Medical supplies and PPE for Community Medics
-Direct monetary support to Black Lives Matter Los Angeles -Supplies and support for protesters and organizers (megaphones, pamphlets, PPE, etc.)
-Direct monetary support to National Lawyers Guild and other groups assisting protesters with legal support
Black Lives Matter Los Angeles – https://www.blmla.org/ + https://www.facebook.com/blmla/
Black Lives Matter emerged from the hearts and minds of our three co-founders: Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi. It came to life right here in Los Angeles, where the first chapter was birthed. Our herstory is an important telling of the emergence of Black Lives Matter, and Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles specifically, as a reclamation of and recommitment to Black radical organizing and Black freedom struggle.
Nithya Raman is running for Los Angeles Council District 4. She is committed to ending homelessness, protecting immigrants, preventing the climate crisis, achieving racial equity and making city hall work for us.
Lastly, we can all write to our elected representatives through the next month. As timing would have it, July 1st is the first day of the new fiscal year in the city of Los Angeles. This means we can all write to express what we care about and what we would like to see funded over the next month. Click here to learn who represents you and get their contact information: https://www.losangelesforward.org/who-represents-me
Abdul-Jabbar, Kareem. “Don't Understand the Protests? What You're Seeing Is People Pushed to the Edge.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 31 May 2020, www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-05-30/dont-understand-the-protests-what-youre-seeing-is-people-pushed-to-the-edge.
The Editorial Board. “The Cities We Need.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 11 May 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/05/11/opinion/sunday/coronavirus-us-cities-inequality.html.
King, Martin Luther. “The Other America.” Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement -- The Other America, 1968, www.crmvet.org/docs/otheram.htm.
Serwer, Adam. “The Coronavirus Was an Emergency Until Trump Found Out Who Was Dying.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 12 May 2020, www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/05/americas-racial-contract-showing/611389/.
We'd like to leave you with a quote by James Baldwin, "Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced."