Say It: Black Lives Matter

For most of my life, I’ve resided in affluent Johnson County, Kansas. My Catholic grade school and high school classes were made up of 99% white students and faculty. I am uncomfortable admitting that. I’m uncomfortable talking about race in general. I wonder if my white, upper middle class background makes some people automatically doubt my sincerity or my motives when I say black lives matter. I’ll say it again: Black Lives Matter. 

What a luxury it is, to merely worry that someone somewhere might not like me because of something I shared in a blog post. I have no idea what actual repression feels like. Still, I worry and feel guilty for worrying…

Will people believe I’m trying to make this all about me? Look at how progressive and enlightened I am, everyone! You should all praise me for being on the right side of history! I once took a Social Problems class in college taught by a–gasp–democratic socialist, which means I’ve been on the woke bandwagon for, like, two decades now! Hooray for me! 

Will my relatives in law enforcement wrongly suspect that I mistrust and condemn *all* police officers because I see an urgent need for widespread reforms to address the ongoing issues of police brutality and systematic injustice?

I know a lot of people shy away from sharing any opinions that risk getting too “political.” I, however, feel that this is the wrong time to remain silent and safe. 

Who actually feels safe right now? We’re still in the middle of a deadly pandemic. Millions of people are out of work. Our president lacks morals, honesty, compassion, reason, knowledge, and basic kindness, and doesn’t even pretend to care about the U.S. constitution. We’re all seeing images of people of all colors and ages, some not even actively involved in protests, being teargassed, pepper-sprayed, hit by rubber bullets, and assaulted by police officers all over the country. 

Many nervous Americans would like to get back to normal, as soon as possible. I understand the sentiment. Nothing feels normal right now, and it’s uncomfortable and scary, and can’t this terrible year just be over already? Let’s gloss over the fact that the Americans dying from Covid-19 are disproportionately black. Let’s pretend not to notice that while white Americans are already starting to bounce back from the economic catastrophe wrought by Covid-19 and inept federal leadership, black Americans are left struggling. Let’s stop all these protests, weary Americans whine. Enough already. We all know all lives matter. Stop rocking the boat.

Nope. Sorry, that isn’t an option. BLACK LIVES MATTER. Time to get used to this “radical” concept. Until we work together to dismantle systemic racism in all levels of our society, the trouble we can’t NOT see right now is going to persist. Turns out, social injustice is rampant in the land of the free and home of the brave. We are failing–failing in truly spectacular fashion–to live up to our most cherished American ideals of equality and freedom and justice…but good luck getting Republicans and Democrats to come together to do anything meaningful to tackle our problems, right? It’s all so hopeless, we cry out. 

We are divided and defensive and sad and outraged and tired of the social chaos, and maybe it’s easier to cling to the feeble notion that because I’m not a loud, violent racist, there’s nothing for me to do here. I don’t need to grow. I don’t need to reexamine my privileges or my biases.

Go talk to my redneck, brainwashed uncle, I think; *I’m* not the prejudiced one, he is! 

I read the Bible and go to church and pray for others, you say; therefore, I am not part of the problem

I vote Democrat, I say; I’m already supporting minorities, so I don’t need to do anything else

I don’t even see skin color, you say; therefore, I don’t need to even consider the possibility that I’m unwittingly perpetuating racist institutions in our country.  

It feels good to say or think “I’m not racist,” but we need to do better and go deeper than that.

It’s going to take a lot more than electing a different president or changing a couple of laws here and there to eradicate racism. We have lifetimes of work ahead of us, centuries of wrongdoing to redress, and we all have our own part to play. I choose to continue educating myself and challenging myself to do better, to question my assumptions about people, to turn the volume knob on my empathy all the way up, to listen and listen and listen some more to black people who are hurting. I’m going to do my best to make a difference. 

I hope you’re all with me. I love you. Thank you to everyone, here and abroad, who is peacefully demonstrating, bravely demanding change while facing the threats of violent retaliation, arrest, and Covid-19.

Black Lives Matter.

 

***

“When we identify where our privilege intersects with somebody else’s oppression, we’ll find our opportunities to make real change.” –Ijeoma Oluo, So You Want to Talk About Race

“Peace is the fruit of love, a love that is also justice. But to grow in love requires work–hard work. And it can bring pain because it implies loss–loss of the certitudes, comforts, and hurts that shelter and define us.” –Jean Vanier, Finding Peace

Photo credit: munshots on Unsplash

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