This may not be an easy post to read. It wasn’t an easy post to write. Or at least, as I’m only three sentences in, I am certain that it won’t be an easy post to write.
You see, it’s a post that is as much as reaction to something I’ve recently seen as it is to the events that have been going on in our world. None of what is swimming through my head is easy to sort through. Nothing in my brain bucket right now is making much sense.
There is a current of sadness that is swimming through everything right now. And I’m not entirely sure how to tread these waters. I’ve never been terribly good at swimming. But I know I’m not ready to let the waters consume me just yet.
So…that brings us here.
Well, now it brings us here. There was a slight break to grab a donut and a chai. Because there really isn’t anything more typically white than going out and getting a chai latte.
Right? Did you laugh? Does it seem like popping off to get a chai latte is a typically white, suburbia thing to do?
I guess that brings us to whats been weighing heavy on me these days.
White. Black. Brown. Yellow. Differing levels of melanin. The arbitrary judgement of a person comes down to something as simple as the levels of melanin in their skin. This is not new. This has been as much a part of the fabric of America since the colonies.
Melanin. The same thing that determines the color of your eyes.
Can you imagine thinking less of someone because their eyes were green? Seeing someone with blue eyes and instinctively clutching your purse for fear that they were going to try to rob you, because all you saw on the news at night were gangs of people with blue eyes causing the crime rates in your city to go up.
So…what lead me here and where am I going with this?
I watched a movie last night called 13th. And to say it impacted me is the understatement of all understatements.
You see, I have been struggling with something recently. OK, maybe not recently. More like for the last several years. This struggle stems around three words that in recent days has come to be a seriously divisive phrase.
But I’m going to say it anyway. Because it needs to be said.
Black Lives Matter
Stop reading now if your mind is already made up on the subject. Nothing I say after this will likely change your mind if you are not willing to look at things outside of your normal filters.
For me one of the things that helped me put some words and thoughts to the feelings I’d been having was watching the movie I just mentioned.
I wanted to turn it off. Because it wasn’t comfortable to watch. In fact, the opposite. It was uncomfortable. Things I recognized through my life. Things that had bothered me. Things that should have, but didn’t.
I have been struggling to put into words my role as an ally. I am not a person of color. If you saw me on the street, I would be the poster child of the exact opposite. Middle aged. White. A mostly-hetero dude.
What has been bothering me lately, with regards to Black Lives Matters is how it has been politicized–on both sides of the party line. The narrative is shifting. And I, honestly wasn’t able to process that, or even find how my voice could help – or even if it could.
13th changed that.
It helped bring things into focus.
What I originally knew of Black Lives Matter is that it centered around calling attention to and seeking to end police brutality. But not just police brutality. No, it was about the disproportionate numbers of POC dying at the hands of uncharacteristically escalated police response.
And at its heart it still is, I believe.
What I learned as I watched 13th was that this was not new. This brutal behavior existed long before you or I or anyone reading this post was even born.
Seeing how, from almost the moment slavery was abolished via the 13th amendment of the Constitution (from where the movie takes it’s title), to now, it is clear that there never truly was a period in our nation’s history where POC were put on equal footing with the rest of society.
There exists an underlying framework that is designed to instill fear and doubt about the relation between crime and POC. This fear and doubt led to increased militarization of the police forces. This also contributed to a lopsided prison population in our country. With 5% of the entire world population, the United States accounts for 25% of the world’s prison population.
These things have, in turn, fueled the fires of hatred and racism. So…there is more than systemic racism afoot here.
Black Lives Matter
Here’s the thing. I have been pulled over by the police 4 times in my life. Not one single time did it ever cross my mind that I would not make it home for dinner. My biggest concern was the points on my license and how much I would have to pay if I didn’t get off with a warning.
My ratio was 50:50. 4 stops. Two warnings. Two Tickets. No physical abuse. The closest I came was a second officer on the passenger side window who had his hand resting on the handle of his pistol, ready to be drawn. Had I been a person of color, likely it would have been drawn as soon as he was able to ascertain that fact.
As a teen, some friends and I let off fireworks in a church parking on a summer evening. The cops were called, rightly so. Stupidly we ran.
Three patrol cars were dispatched. We ran. And some of the officers gave chase. They caught one of us. The slowest. They didn’t beat him up. They didn’t cuff him. They didn’t arrest him.
They scared him a little. They drove around the neighborhood and on the PA they stated that they knew who we were and that they had called our parents.
They didn’t. And they didn’t.
About 20minutes later, they got called away. And 5 little white boys from the burbs laughed and joked about how gangster they were because they ran from the cops.
And there was not one single minute where any of us thought we were going to die.
Please read this part again.
I was brought up believing that if I was in danger, I should find a police officer. Friends of mine of color were told something different.
I don’t have all the words. I know that. I’m gonna fuck up as we go forward. I know that, too.
But I want to help. It’s not out of a sense of guilt. It’s because regardless of color, nobody deserves to be treated as less than human. Period.
Black Lives Matter.
Why do I keep going back to that?
Because it needs to be said.
The more it’s countered with “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter” the easier it becomes to dismiss the true issue. This false indignation that some feel when they hear Black Lives Matter is the fruit of the seeds that have been planted through our culture since the days of the Civil War. It’s not going away.
Not without an intentional recognition and acknowledgement that, in no uncertain terms,
Black Lives Matter.