This blog isn’t going to attempt to be original. This blog probably won’t say anything that hasn’t been said before. I don’t have a unique viewpoint, or much experience with racism, or even black friends. I’m just a middle-aged white woman, married to a brown man, with tan children. But I, my brown husband, and my tan children deserve a better, safer, kinder world than the one raging out there. You do too. So while I can’t claim to add anything new, I feel we all have a responsibility to continue the conversation in any way we can.
I’m going to start with something that is controversial, that really shouldn’t be. #BlackLivesMatter. First off, YOU ABSOLUTELY CANNOT hijack this hashtag for anyone else right now. It is NOT okay to type #AllLivesMatter. It’s true, and everyone has some small piece of suffering to call their own, but there are other ways of drawing attention to that suffering without diminishing that of someone else. There are a hundred memes out there trying to help the general public understand why it’s not okay to use the hashtag in another way, (ie. it’s not okay for your doctor to say “all bones matter,” when you want him to fix your broken ankle.) and yet the other day I heard Rudy Giuliani, an arguably respectable republican, SCREAMING at the Republican National Convention that all lives matter and blue lives matter, to thousands of cheering fans.
I am horrified at the recent shootings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge this past week, and I would like to voice my solidarity with them. No police officer should have to fear for his life over something another officer did. No good officer should pay for the crimes of a bad egg. But you can’t type #bluelivesmatter. Of course they do. Of course. Of course they need our support. Do it in another way that doesn’t detract from our black brothers and sisters who are also hurting right now, and have suffered through generations of inequality, rejection, manipulation, fear, and ignorance.
Racism is alive. It’s strong. And every time someone says “I’m not racist,” it gets stronger. Every time someone says “doesn’t having a black president prove that racism is over?” it gets stronger. Every time someone says “I could understand why we had affirmative action in the past, but if they want equality, they shouldn’t need it,” it gets stronger. Every time someone says “I don’t think he deserved to die, but it wasn’t like he was a good person,” racism gains muscle. We don’t even have to call it racism. We can call it racial inequality. It’s alive, it’s strong, and it permeates every area of life for a person of color. If you deny this, it’s because 1) you are NOT a person of color, and 2) you aren’t listening to a person of color.
Let’s start here: If you are a white person, have you ever had to have “the talk?” Not the birds and the bees. The one about how to act like a quiet, docile, helpless, obedient, blank, and harmless person if you’re ever stopped by a police officer. Think you have the right to question your arrest? Sure you do, but you may end up dead. Think you have the right to plead the 5th? Sure, but you could be shoved to the ground and arrested for obstruction of justice. Think you have the right to understand your rights? Sure, but if you speak Spanish and don’t understand an officer screaming in English to put your hands up, you may just get shot repeatedly for resisting. If you have never had to worry about your rights coming in the way of your life, you are coming from a place of privilege. The first step to ending racial inequality is to accept that you come from a place of privilege. If you are a man, you have it better than a woman. It’s just a fact. If you are straight, you have it better than someone who is gay or transgendered. If you are thin, you have much more privilege than a person who is fat. If you are born into money, you have more opportunities than a person with a poor upbringing. We don’t question most of these facts. Why do we question the considerable handicap that comes with race?
The Brown vs. Board of Education ruling came down in 1954, effectively ending the Jim Crow laws segregating schools. But state and local legislation spent the next few decades finding loopholes to continue allowing segregation. It wasn’t until 1988 that de-segregation reached 45% of people of color. It wasn’t until a few years ago that the last high school prom was desegregated. How can anyone claim that racial inequality doesn’t exist in a world where we could still legally send children of color to sub par schools only one generation ago? How can we expect a whole culture to be able to pull itself from poverty, crime, drug use, broken homes, and unsafe communities, when we could LEGALLY prevent them from equal rights and treatment a mere 60 years ago? How can you drop a stone in water and expect the ripples to have no effect?
When you see #blacklivesmatter; when you hear it being shouted through tears, when you see protests in cities thousands of miles from incidents of police brutality, don’t dismiss their pain. Don’t discount their struggle. Don’t justify how you’re not racist. Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine how terrifying it would be to be pulled over by police and mistaken for someone who just robbed a bank, or pulled out of your car and searched without a warrant, or cuffed on the ground for asking what you did wrong. Imagine doing everything right…disclosing your concealed carry permit…and being shot while your wife and child watch…
We need to support #BlackLivesMatter, because until we can provide equal opportunity, equal rights, equal safety under the law…we prove time and time again that they just don’t.
Picture borrowed from: http://www.politico.com/story/2015/08/no-plans-to-stop-says-black-lives-matter-121538