Unity is not enough

President Biden calls for unity. Is that really what we need?

At Joe Biden’s inauguration, his speech was riddled with the rhetoric of healing and unity. But what, we may ask, does unity get us? Will unity ensure that every working American earns a living wage? Will unity give every individual access to the healthcare they need? Will unity fix the institutionalized racism that has seeped into every crevice of our society? This list could be a hundred items long and still remain incomplete. The point is, calls for unity ultimately say nothing about what needs to be done, and only serve to distract from real social progress.

Unity is not enough.

While the ideals of healing, unity, and compromise may be admirable, in practical terms, they contribute very little toward positive social change.

In the face of racial injustice, endless wars we wage in the middle east, a pandemic that has been grossly mishandled, et cetera, the idea that we simply need to get along better, that we as a nation need to heal, is laughable. It is akin to trying to heal a burn while your hand is still on the stove. These divides do not materialize in a vacuum, they are a result of our social institutions, so healing the divide is impossible without addressing its cause. We must first see substantive change before calls for unity can be taken seriously.

In the words of Doctor Martin Luther King Jr., “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.” Without justice, the tension can, should, and will remain.