Many of us look at art to see beauty and triumph, to find peace, and to be uplifted. But art offers the full range of the human experience, and it may just as readily show us ugliness, suffering, aggression, injustice, and tragedy. Invariably, our encounters with art leave us more complete because they remind us of our shared humanity. We are part of something more profound than just ourselves. Our lives have meaning because of that basic truth.
That lesson of art seems particularly important now, when so many are suffering, not only because of the global pandemic but also because of longstanding and deep-rooted racism. We mourn for our fellow Americans George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, their families, and many others because our shared humanity ties us to them. Those same ties must now bring us together for a more just and equitable future. Bryan Stevenson, civil rights lawyer and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, reminds us that “hopelessness is the enemy of justice.” Valerie Castile, mother of Philando Castile, tells us that it was through her faith, the generosity of her community, and the power of art that she found solace after a police officer fatally shot her son in 2016.
We must remain hopeful, generous, just, and kind now. Our past does not have to be our destiny. We must let the power of art, which is the power of all that we share as human beings, be a power that prevails through this difficult time.