“Give Me a Place to Stand...
And I Will Move the World.”

My next essay this week will be about Ginger and her medical difficulties. In the past week, Ginger has been seen her two favorite vets : Dr. Sabedra and Dr. Dianna on four different occasions. While waiting to see Dr. Sabedra on her last visit , I wrote out the rough draft of this essay. As Ginger looked around at everything at the Hobart Animal Clinic , I had time to ponder.

We live in troubling times in America. On a national level, we are dealing with deaths and suffering from both COVID - 19 and racism. Those troubling issues mix ed with my concerns about the health of Ginger and her dance with death.

Our times are almost unimaginable. Who would have thought that 2020 would be like it is today? I wrote the rough draft of this article about being in graduate school in 1966. I wasn’t writing about my problems but about a speech given by my most important mentor, Bobby Kennedy. He gave at the University of Cape Town on June 6, 1966. The speech was given to about 20,000 students, professors, and locals at the Annual Day of Affirmation. While the name of this celebration, Annual Day of Affirmation, seemed a bit mundane, Bobby Kennedy’s speech was one of the best speeches that he ever gave. In that single speech, he changed the lives of countless listeners at the University of Cape Town. That speech resonated with those several thousand South Africans that day, but it equally resonated with millions upon millions of others in decades since.

In America in the 60s, we were attempting to make changes in our society, which was based upon racism. Many white Americans did not view blacks as equal to them. Blacks were discriminated against, beaten, and killed. Our American history of racism started in 1619 in the British colony at Jamestown . Over two hundred years later, slavery was the way of life in America in the South. The Civil War removed slavery , but blacks still faced discrimination , Jim Crow laws, segregation , beatings, and killings . I went to college exactly a century after Civil War . America hadn’t change much in that century for blacks .

John Lewis is being beaten on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965

In South Africa, it was even worse for South Africans blacks. Bobby had come to encourage them in their struggle against apartheid. As I wrote the draft of this essay while waiting Ginger’s turn to see her vet, I sat there thinking about what Bobby told his listeners at University of Cape Town. He told them that they were equal to whites. My mind must have drifted off for a few moment to some other world or galaxy. I found myself thinking that Bobby was telling other human beings that we are all equal. While I was in some other world, it seemed like telling other people they were equal was an unnecessary statement.

However, my visit to a world far, far away didn’t last long. In the real and tragic world in which we all live, many affirm that there are different races like whites, blacks, Asians, and Hispanics. It is as if each race emerged in different places at the same time. Whites appear in Northern Europe, blacks in Africa, Asians in China, and Hispanics in Mexico. While that is stupid, it isn’t as stupid as whites being better than the other races.

We all came from The Seven Daughters of Eve, which is a book by Bryan Sykes. Sykes is the Emeritus Professor of Human genetics at the University of Oxford. His book traces all human DNA back to one of seven women who lived in the general area of what is called today Kenya. We are the descendants of an evolutionary development spanning six million years. However, Homo sapiens have been around for approximately 200,000 years ago. They moved around in Africa and then went out of Africa ca. 120,000 years ago.

From whence we all came

The evolution of Homo sapiens and their outmigration from Africa is scientific fact. Over the next decades, we will be able to get more precise dating of human migration out of Africa. Nevertheless, Bobby’s message in his speech was that we all are equal, because we are all from Africa. Consequently, the civil rights movements in America and in South Africa were attempts to address the same issue of racism. We are all descendant of people from Africa. If we want to label us as a race, it is called the human race.

However, that speech was made 54 years ago at another time and place. Nonetheless, George Santayana warned us, “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.” Today, we are facing COVID-19 and racism. Both of those issues are pandemics. One is a virus and the other the virus of mistreating other human beings. In both pandemics, there are various forms of physical suffering and, in many cases, death.

We need to learn a critical lesson from the past. What is occurring in America today is senseless suffering and avoidable whether it is COVID-19 or racism. As with all reformations of past mistakes related to racism, the agents of change are those who were affected. They start the process of addressing the hurt and suffering. The civil rights movement in America or South Africa weren’t start by whites. All social movements, whether dealing with racism, sexism, homophobia, etc., were started by those that were directly affected. Straight, white males never started any of those movements.

Why? The answer is simple. It is because white males haven’t felt the pain like blacks, women, and the LGBT community have felt.

Bobby Kennedy spoke to the black South Africans about the ripple effect of their endeavors to obtain equality and change apartheid.

“Give me a place to stand,” said Archimedes, “and I will move the world.” These men moved the world, and so can we all. Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation. Thousands of Peace Corps volunteers are making a difference in isolated villages and city slums in dozens of countries. Thousands of unknown men and women in Europe resisted the occupation of the Nazis and many died, but all added to the ultimate strength and freedom of their countries. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

We can create ripples

Bobby, in that speech, quoted Archimedes, “Give me a place to stand, and I will move the world.” The ripple effect will allow all of us to stand and help us to move the world to a better place than we found it.

Bobby was standing on the roof of a car as he sent out ripples.

This is Bobby’s audio of the Ripple Effect speech.

This is a link to the text of the speech.