Tuesday, July 12, 2016

WHY BLACK LIVES MATTER


This morning I wasted some brain cells reading a washed-up politician’s characterization of #BlackLivesMatter as “a farce … to weaken America through disunity.”

I’m not going to boost that horrible persons web traffic by linking; you can find it on your own if you’re interested. But here’s my response.

Narrow-minded, fearful, and history-deficient people interpret “Black Lives Matter” to mean “Black People Think that Their Lives are More Important than Others.”

These willfully ignorant people can’t (or, more likely, won’t) understand that “Black Lives Matter” is short for a much larger concept that includes all of us as responsible parties:

“Because for the entire history of this nation, including a long, long time before we even became a nation, blacks have been systematically kidnapped, enslaved, dehumanized, oppressed, murdered, raped, marginalized, excluded from participation in the democratic process, denied education, employment, and housing, denied a fair chance, spat upon and beaten, discriminated against for the simple acts of walking and driving and living — because of all this and much, much more, and because a white society created this terrible system and codified it in our laws, religion, and customs and continues to perpetuate it — then we as a society — all of us, every one — we all need to acknowledge and agree right now that, yes, BLACK LIVES MATTER as much as any other lives, that we all have equal worth as human beings, and that we all need to do everything we can right now to ensure that all lives and all people are treated with dignity and respect and equality and especially, that the casual murdering of black people, especially black men, will be acknowledged for what it is, and stopped, and that to do so, we need to acknowledge the deeply-entrenched, systemic, often overt racism that still exists in our society and deeply informs our laws, religious practices, and customs, and we need to make the extra effort that will be required to make things right.”

That’s what BLM means to me. But this is a bigger, more self-critical concept than many people are willing to accept, because accepting the idea of BLM also means 1) accepting responsibility for the racism that still pervades our society, and 2) agreeing that it needs to change. Those who deride BLM and choose to interpret it wrongly do so from a position of several hundred years of white privilege that they like and that they wish to perpetuate. They see “BLM” as an attack on “white lives matter” or “blue lives matter” or whatever, and they react defensively in the form of extreme aggression.

The hateful person ended the screed with this exhortation: Do not let today’s agenda redefine what it means to be an American. Do not sit still for it to fundamentally transform America.

Translation: “Don’t let BLM redefine what it means to be an American by allowing inclusion of all people, especially people of color, and especially black people, into our private enclave of white privilege. Do not sit still for it to fundamentally transform America into a fair, level society that embraces all people and therefore topples white, straight, Christian, mostly male people from the top of the hierarchy.

I hear/read people bewailing the increasing violence and discord as the “disintegration” or “unraveling” of our society. Well, perhaps if our society were better designed, better made, and more tightly woven, it wouldn’t be so vulnerable to stresses and strains.

I feel deeply, culturally ashamed.


Related: I’ve been paying attention to the changing demographics of this country, as people of color become the majority. Speaking as a white person, my reaction is “It’s time. We white people have had our day, we’ve had our chance, and we didn’t do very well. Time to step aside.” I welcome a better, more diverse future.

ADDENDUM:


The hateful person quoted above further implies that BLM activists are “…thugs rioting against police officers.”

Hmm.

Surely there would be less violence if municipal leaders chose to send unarmed, political leaders and policy experts to meet BLM leaders and activists and listen to what they have to say, instead of sending heavily-armed, militarized police forces who are trained for, and excessively prepared for, using extreme violence.

If a phalanx of heavily armed soldiers approached me, I sure as hell would either run (and risk getting shot in the back) or feel compelled to fight (and be shot in the front) or surrender altogether. What terrible choices.

But if people approached without guns, in plain clothes, and held out a hand, and said, “Let’s talk. Tell me what is on your mind and tell me how I can help” then surely that would be less violent and might actually lead to listening and conversation, which is the first step in effecting social change.


How can you talk to a tank? Or even to a LEO who has on a helmet, full face shield, etc.? How can you shake hands with someone who has a rifle in one hand and a riot shield in the other?

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