BLACK LIVES MATTER
I’ve been reading the “also” or “too” vs. “only” debate about the “campaign slogan” of this movement for several weeks now, across multiple sources online, and I haven’t weighed in, because I know that when I first heard of their tagline, my initial, knee-jerk, emotional gut reaction was to think, “Now, hey, wait a minute . . . Blacks aren’t the only minority being marginalized in this country . . .
• Women are still struggling to fight against proposed legislation
that would set back rights for half the general population
to a time before our grandparent’s generation, making us
little more than indentured servants to our male counterparts,
effectively reducing us to glorified baby-making factories,
better seen than heard.
• Native Americans in every corner of the nation are having
the sacred ancestral tribal lands that support their culture
and sustain their people stripped from them with the stroke
of a pen, as if the ink on the treaties that “gave” it to them
had dried up and disappeared, like dust in the wind
with the passage of time.
• Homosexuals who simply want to have the same freedoms
the rest of the nation takes for granted are still having to fight
for basic HUMAN rights, even after the passage of laws
that have already granted it to them.
• Latin Americans are disregarded as subhuman.
• Jews are generally distrusted.
• Asian culture is ransacked, twisted, and appropriated, as is
anything else that white America finds shiny and somehow valuable,
and nearly every person of non-anglo descent, with non-euro-
heritage is expected to assimilate, homogenize, speak OUR language,
blend in, melt away, and disappear into the collective “US.”
• Most other cultures are barely given a grunt of recognition,
and every religion — or even, a carefully chosen lack of religion —
that doesn’t align with the majority is dismissed as irrelevant,
while efforts of multiple controlling powers blatantly seeking
to turn our government into a THEOCRACY — in order to thereby
*legally* allow for mass discrimination of ALL non-conforming
ideologies — are hurtling U.S. citizenry at an alarming speed
toward our very own American CRUSADES.
• The middle class is disappearing as the working class continues
to plummet towards or even over the poverty line, while our
legislators — predominantly very old, mostly white, mostly male,
mostly millionaires, who *cannot possibly* have ANY understanding
of the common man — grow fat on the spoils of lying in bed with,
and licking the boots of corporations whose leaders have put such
a distance between themselves and the labor force that established
their wealth, that they steadily drive us all to the brink of a
modern day French Revolution.
Surely the issues of all these downtrodden should be considered just as much of a priority?
Don’t ALL lives matter?”
... ... ...
Those WERE my first thoughts.
But then I thought of the position that the BLM movement was taking, the justification of their indignation, and the righteousness of their cause, and I dismissed my first response as the rumblings of insecurity bred from white-passable privilege (which isn’t quite the same as white privilege, but close enough in nearly every respect that makes a difference). I considered that maybe, if even I, with my circular thinking, logical minded, generally objective perspective — having to skip a beat, take a breath and check myself before reaching a more supportive conclusion — could nearly find my own impressions lumped in with that of the ignorant masses, then maybe the phrase *COULD* benefit from a minor clarification in wording...?
You see, in my head, I knew the saying didn’t mean *ONLY* BLACK Lives Matter, but, to reach through to the hearts of people who need most to get this message, maybe it could use a touch of tweaking? A bit of help to make certain that what it did mean came across effectively...?
“Black Lives Matter, TOO.” ( ??? )
“Black Lives ALSO Matter.” ( ??? )
You know? Like, let’s go ahead and get the air cleared up front, in case, God forbid, someone not in support of this movement should mistakenly assume that people who want to be free to LIVE as the rest of us do are somehow asking for more than they deserve, or attempting to encroach on anything someone else already has.
... ... ...
Oh, I’m sorry, did that come across as ridiculous?
Maybe even a little bit racist???
Yeah, it did to me, too. Even in my own mind, I couldn’t defend that thought, so I got to thinking about it even further, and the conclusion I came to, I can neither think, nor speak, nor even write about without a lump in the back of my throat, and tears swelling up in my eyes.
... ... ...
Once I got my head screwed on straight, I realized, there is absolutely NO value in anyone who is NOT black sitting around on any social media site with anyone else who is NOT black having any length of discussion about whether this saying can or can’t be misinterpreted, or should or shouldn’t be modified for the sake of clarity.
Black people KNOW what they mean.
And, more importantly...
THEY HAVE SAID IT.
The question should NOT be about whether or not this saying needs ANY further clarification.
There IS NO **implied** “ALSO.” There IS NO silent “TOO.”
The word “ONLY” is only in your imagination.
Black people are standing together collectively, screaming at the top of their lungs like Whos on a speck of sand in a thistle, to TELL the world simply that BLACK LIVES MATTER. Not because they matter more than anyone else’s. Not even because they matter “just as much” as yours do. But simply BECAUSE they matter. And you and I, from a place of privilege, can debate til the cows come home what else surely *must* be subliminally included in that statement, or what other, additional message clearly must be either meant by it or derived from it, because we are so far removed from a world in which such a statement needs to be made that we cannot even relate to the concept enough to understand it. The fact remains that, telling the world our lives matter is NOT, and never has been, a necessity. It is a **foregone conclusion.**
Over the course of more than 4 decades of water under all my crossed bridges thus far, I have never had to INFORM *anyone* in my existence that MY LIFE matters, because everything about my 40-some years on this terrestrial plane has demonstrated to me, it’s just assumed, EVERYONE KNOWS. And that is because,
I’M NOT BLACK.
You see, that’s why this issue can’t be compared with women’s rights. Or gay freedoms. Or religious privilege. Or social injustice. Or any cultural stigmatism. Because they’re NOT the same.
... ... ...
People who’ve emigrated here from another way of life carried with them their shared history and their family name, their traditions and ethics, their hopes and dreams of a new world, and their intentions for what would be passed down from generation to generation after generation in this land of safety, asylum, freedom, opportunity, or whatever other promise of the American Dream brought them to our borders. But the same can’t be said of blacks. What is their shared culture heritage? Slavery? Oppression? Marginalization? Displacement? Disenfranchisement? Systematic, institutionalized injustice?
You can say all you want to that black people have fought for and won their civil rights. Sure, we have an African American in the White House. And we could probably even call him a Kenyan American, if he wanted us to, because we know where his lineage originates. But his wife, Michelle, she’s from... what, Chicago? If you take most any person in this country who is black and trace their family tree, where is it going to lead? We throw a continent in front of the name “American” for people we identify as “black,” because the whole of that vast, expansive land mass across the ocean is the closest most of us can get to knowing who they are or where they’ve come from, as if labeling an entire group of people “African American,” will somehow provide unity and conformity, like it’s some sort of nationality or ethnicity — as if that would give them back the shared cultural heritage whites stole from them. But the truth is, all “blacks” really can be certain they have in common is that they are darker than some of the rest of us. As if that’s all that really matters.
We who like to think of ourselves as caring and compassionate, as understanding and objective, as loving, and liberal... we know that nothing about any human’s way of life should be boiled down to no more than a byproduct of a person’s skin tone. But, we also know that, sometimes, it does. More than anyone else in this country, it is “blacks” who have grown up never being allowed to forget that ugly truth, because of all the lifelong ramifications that automatically comes along with having that skin tone, despite *every* effort of every civil rights leader. We stand beside those who would labor against this unfortunate reality, and we offer our voices to the outcry, and our efforts to the work that is still needed. But we can’t know this need the way they do, because we haven’t lived the reality they have lived—the reality they must still face, every day of their lives.
That reality is, black people aren’t fighting for rights. Or freedom. Or privilege. Or better wages. Or justice. Or equality. These very basic HUMAN needs might ALL be desired, and even necessary. But the luxury — the privilege — of being able to seek out those bare necessities is not right now priority number one on the agenda of most black people these days, because there is an even MORE *pressing* objective. Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness can be discussed later, at such a time when the house is not on fire.
Black people are fighting to LIVE. Black people are fighting just to SURVIVE. Black people are fighting FOR THEIR LIVES, because they’re NOT being allowed just to LIVE as you and I do. The first and foremost of those truths we hold to be self-evident, that our Declaration of Independence defines as endowed to us by our Creator, has not been achieved for Black people. The right to LIFE — a Constitutional guarantee for ALL — is one that was never fully bestowed upon Blacks.
Black people are fighting to be able to walk out their door and NOT worry, just as you and I do not worry, that in the course of going about their everyday lives, that they might be KILLED — just for being black. They are fighting to live in a world unrecognizable from our own — a world in which, if such a terrible tragedy were to occur, it would be such a rarity as to garner main stream media attention, and it would be met with both national outrage and swift justice.
• Black people cannot be certain, as you and I are every day,
that they can walk down any street in this land of the FREE,
and not be shot in the chest at point blank range, a mere
few yards from their own door to safety, for the heinous
crime of “looking suspicious,” because of choice in wardrobe.
• Black people cannot be assured, as you and I would be,
that in the course of trying to intervene in a fight,
they might not be accused of such a minor crime as
would barely warrant so much as a ticket for a white man,
presumed guilty on the spot, and subsequently CHOKED to death.
• Black people cannot go to work, as you and I would,
confident in the knowledge that they will not be
SHOT IN THE BACK at their place of business because
someone WHITE mistakenly had the idea that something
about their job was not entirely above board.
• Black people cannot drive an automobile, as you and I would,
in their own familiar neighborhoods, to their family homes,
knowing that they will arrive safely at their destination
without being mistaken for someone else, SECRETLY followed,
stalked by a PLAINCLOTHES officer in an UNMARKED vehicle,
and shot multiple times through the back of their own car.
• Black people cannot, as you and I might, simply walk to the
grocery store with their family and a handful of friends,
without being attacked without warning by a rogue battalion
of NON-UNIFORMED police with military grade assault weapons.
• Black people cannot peaceably live wherever they can afford to,
as you and I do, if where they can afford to live is public housing,
without concern that their residential facility will be meticulously
patrolled floor by floor, IN SEARCH OF A CRIME IN PROGRESS — a zealous
pursuit assured to turn up perpetrators guilty of being black
in the unlit stairwell of their own tenement building, which of course,
naturally provokes the instinctive reaction to shoot to kill.
• Black people cannot hang out at the mall, as you and I might,
or even relax in their own homes, as you and I do,
nor even sleep in their own beds at night, as you and I will,
satisfied that they can answer their own front door,
suffer a life-threatening health condition, have a malfunctioning brake light,
walk down the street with a white person, or even just
go about their normal daily routine, without fear of being
searched, beaten, maced, smothered, tazed, bombed, or shot,
over a case of mistaken identity, bad information, because someone
got the numbers on a house wrong, because some eager beaver is
showing off for the reality TV film crew, or because someone
happens to match a certain description — one that need not go
any further than “black.”
And so, black people are resorting, in anger, in fear, and in desperation, to telling the world that:
***BLACK LIVES MATTER***
...because the realities black people must face every day suggest to them that
THE WORLD DOESN’T KNOW.
... ... ...
In just under 7 weeks, I will stand before my God, my family, my friends and loved ones, and I will promise my life to the man I love. And when we raise our children, they will be Native American and Irish, as well as Moroccan, East Indian, and French. But it doesn’t matter how many colors go into making up their skin tone, because to the rest of the world, all they will be is BLACK.
So I will have to train my son when he learns to drive, to never go above the speed limit, and to always keep his license valid, proof of insurance in the car, his tabs up to date, his headlamps and taillights functional, his muffler in good working condition, and wear his seat belt, in the hopes that he doesn’t go around with any avoidable reasons to get pulled over. I will make sure he drives a car that isn’t too flashy, but not too rusted out, either. And whether he is an athlete, a band geek, a mathematician, an artist, a musician, or a science nerd, I will teach him to dress in a manner that could never cause him to be mistaken for a common criminal. I will train him for the inevitable day when he is pulled over for any reason, or, more likely, for no reason at all, to hold out his empty hands, palms up, to show they are devoid of wallets, cell phones, pocket knives, pill bottles, or broom handles, and to be cooperative, deferential, and polite.
I will train my daughter to speak her mind, and to protect herself, but I will make sure that she presents herself in attire, in demeanor, in word and in deed respectably, and that she knows how to make her insights known without allowing for her intelligence, her personal pride, her sense of fairness, her understanding of what’s right, and her general grasp of basic human decency to be deliberately mistaken for belligerence, rebellion, or sass. (This will be especially hard for ME to teach her, because she will be MY daughter, and I’ve never been very good at that, myself.) I will teach her to show the proper deference — say Yes Ma’am, no Sir, etc. — in situations when she is vulnerable to persons in authority with the power to abuse her, and to smile so hard her teeth hurt, if that’s what it takes, even if she has to choke back tears.
I will do this for my family, not because I want them to get a good grade in class, or to be allowed onto the football team or the cheerleading squad or the band trip or the school play. Not because I want them to get a leg up with their boss, or climb another rung on the corporate ladder. And not even because I want them to be decent, respectable citizens, though if that’s an added bonus, I’ll take it. But I will train my children to do what needs to be done to keep them safe in this world, because every time they walk out my front door — regardless of anything else I might desire for their future, and no matter what I may think of whatever they might do outside the realm of my protection — what I will want most of all, is for them to COME HOME. I hope that everything I have been through in my life up until that point will have prepared me to be up to the challenge of raising black children. And I pray, every day, that all members of my household will grow up in a world which will have at some point learned,
BLACK LIVES **DO** MATTER.
Trayvon Martin | Eric Garner | Ousmane Zongo | Prince Jones | James Brissette | Ronald Madison | Akai Gurley | Jordan Baker | McKenzie Cochran | Tarika Wilson | Aiyana Jones | Yvette Smith | David Washington | Walter Scott | Jeremy Lake | Shem Walker | Carlos Alcis | Robert Davis | David Washington | Luis Rodriguez | Dante Parker | Alberta Spruill | Aaron Campbell | Joseph Burke-Monerville | John Adams | James Blake | Amadou Diallo | Rekia Boyd | Freddie Gray | Rumain Brisbon | Abner Louima