As you’ve probably seen by the front page of my portfolio screen, this portfolio is centered around the theme “critical love”. The term was introduced to me in Montgomery, Alabama by the EJI project manager Elliot Spears who spoke at our humes trip to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. Elliot had grown up in Alabama, went to college at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and then came back to work in Montgomery at EJI after college. He had never left the state, and often he didn’t leave the city of Montgomery. The same city with a horrible past, and a constant reminder of the terrors committed on people that looked like him. So why did Elliot stay? He describes his relationship with Montgomery with the term “critical love”. Critical love is not the unconditional love that stops for nothing, but it is love that understands the circumstances, the history and wants to create a new narrative of love. For Elliot, he wanted to make a difference in Montgomery, and he is able to do that with the great things he does at EJI.
This term of critical love struck me especially after walking through the Memorial for Peace and Justice. I’ve grown up in the South my whole life: Union County, North Carolina to be exact. I’ve always been thankful for where I’ve grown up. It’s a nice town, with things to do, and I quick drive to Charlotte. I also have learned about the history of my region, but it never really occurred to me to dig deeper into the true history. Have I been naive? Yes. When walking through the memorial with the stone columns overhanging on the ceiling, I saw my county with the name of 3 people who had been lynched: Edmund Davis, Lee Staton, John Osborne.
Seeing this hurt my opinion of the place I have lived my whole life. We talked a lot that day about how to react, how to situate yourself in that time and place and take in what is being shown to you.
My situation is completely different than that of Elliot’s, but I think his philosophy is important. “Critical love”. This is how I can now approach the place I’ve called home for 19 years. Humes has motivated me to research my local history, understand the past, and try to make a difference in the present.
The philosophy of “critical love” also applies to much more that we’ve studied in Humes. I think about Dr. Ewington’s unit and how Russians grapple with the memorialization of a figure like Stalin whose regime killed countless Russians under his rule.
Lastly, I think just the concept of love is important. Our class deals with the human condition and human emotions, with love being one of them. We’ve seen examples of both love and hate throughout our units, but most often we have seen hate. Hate is what drags society’s back, oppresses others, and excludes people from the human family. Love however is the key. It is what can hopefully progress our society further. So love is important! Try to show some love, humans need it. However, don’t love blindly, often the better form is “critical love”.