I remember something Robin Williams said about Marin County many years ago when he appeared on the Tonight Show. He said that when you drive over the Golden Gate Bridge and up the Waldo grade, you see that great rainbow tunnel. But, he lamented, “I don’t know why there’s a rainbow there, because once you cross through the tunnel, there’s no rainbow of colors, only white.”
When I drive through the famed rainbow tunnel, ironically now named for Robin Williams, I often think about what he said, and about the sad truth that Marin County is 80% white (according to the last census in 2010) and so far removed from the rest of the country. Marin, as stunning and comfortable as it is, is insulated from so many of the hardships and struggles that face many of our nation’s cities. While we are surrounded by Mt. Tam, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the rugged waters of the Pacific Ocean, some of our nation’s most beautiful sites, so many of our cities are surrounded by pain and fear and incessant struggle. And being removed from the fire does not insulate us from the burn of its flame.
Today, in recent weeks, more African American men have been shot by police officers. Keith Lamont Scott- Terence Crutcher- Philado Castile- Alton Sperling. Protesters from Charlotte to Tulsa have been chanting their names as they question and challenge the system that allows African American men to live in fear for their lives every day. Racial injustice has become a cornerstone of this election and touches all of our lives. Torah teaches us over and over again to care for those in need, to lift up the fallen, and to protect the rights of others.
Many of us living in Marin County live with and experience such personal privilege. We are surrounded by tremendous wealth, beauty, safety, and opportunity. Sometimes, it’s easier to pretend that Marin is monolithic, too easy to ignore the broad array of people who make Marin their home. Because as privileged as Marin is, it is also comprised of people who struggle, who live well below the poverty line, who live with injustice every day, who experience racial and ethnic bias. Marin County has one of the highest rates of income inequality in the nation. And so many of Marin’s minorities live in isolation.
I recently asked an African American friend, a young man who lives in Marin, how this violence affects him and how safe he feels living in Marin. “Oh no,” he replied, “I feel safe here.” But then he added, “It’s just, some people don’t even look at me, they just look right through me like I’m not even here.” He is here, as are so many other men and women of color. He is here, just like so many people from so many ethnic backgrounds. Our job, and the jobs of our families and friends, is to see the all people around us, to honor all people and to see the holiness in them. This is what our tradition asks of us, and this is what this transitional time in our nation’s history demands of us as well.