How much do black lives matter to you?

June 1, 2020

black-lives-matterI don’t know how to tackle this subject and do it justice. I just know I have to try, even If I stumble.

Do you find it as strange as I do that we have to actually point out that black lives matter? Do you wonder why it isn’t that something that everyone in our multi-faceted nation takes for granted?

The strong stench in the air

WTF is going on that peace officers continue to kill suspects in custody–but only BLACK suspects in custody? Why does this happen over and over?

Why do we pretend that emancipation and civil rights legislation have made an equal society?

Who are the white forces behind the violence in our streets? Who is engaging these anarchists and professional provocateurs, then blaming black protestors for it?

Again: Why do we pretend that emancipation and civil rights legislation have made an equal society?

What is that we white people can’t see, even though it’s right in front of our faces?

I’m lucky. I have several good friends of color with whom I can have real dialogue. Who are patient with my questions. And my whiteness. Who help me see what my white skin blinds me to.

A chilling conversation

I was talking to one last night: a bright, beautiful 50-year-old. Happily married. Successful. Who has made her professional living using her gift of expression. Mother to two wonderful just grown children. She is sweet and personable. Smart and knowledgeable. Here’s some of the conversation, which began with my checking in to see how she was doing, given the protests in her city:

My friend:  I have a carry permit and I just bought a gun which is something I never thought I would do.
Me (after a moment of stunned silence to let it sink in): Oh my God.
Her: Yes. I carry a gun now. I have to protect my family.
Me. That makes me want to cry. It says everything. Oh, honey, I am so sorry for the mess we white people have made of everything.
Her: It’s not just White people. It’s stupid people.

She is the very last person I would ever expect to be armed. And yet, the moment she walks out her door she feels at risk. She IS at risk. Her family is at risk. And why? Because she’s black.

White people can’t begin to understand this, not intuitively, not in any way, shape or form because it’s not our reality. But sit a moment and let it sink in. Try to put yourself in her shoes for a moment.

It’s terrifying.

George Floyd. Trayvon Martin. Eric Garner. Michael Brown. Those scenarios could happen to her husband, her brother, her son. To her.

Sit with the idea that every outing is fraught with potential danger.

It’s terrifying.

We then addressed the coming election and the need to vote blue no matter who.

Her: Absolutely. They keep telling people to mail in vote. I say go in person. I’ve worked in the SOE office and I’ve seen ballots get tossed because a poll worker thinks the signature doesn’t match.  At least if you go in person, you can argue your point. It happens to me during the last election. She said my signature didn’t match and tried to give me a provisional ballot. I know for a FACT they do not get counted.
Me: Because you’re black. Son of a fu cking bitch. VWB. (Voting While Black)
Her: I didn’t want to believe that but yes. We’re treated as if we’re stupid … less than. It’s disheartening. I have a hard time wrapping my mind around this level of hate.

Tampering with basic rights

Never, ever, has anyone hassled white me about my signature on my ballot. And yet, this is her reality, one she didn’t want to believe, but knew to be true.

I ask you to let this entire conversation sink in. How things we take for granted in the white world are not the same in the black world. Walking out the door each day is not something we worry about. But it is something black people must worry about. Voting is a right for us. But forces on the right want to suppress black votes. Are doing everything they can to keep black votes from counting.

This, my friends, is the America we live in. For all the flag waving, devotion to so-called patriotism, the boast that we’re the greatest country in the world….the facts are very different. The truth is very different. We have to face the facts.

When you are not white, life is very different.

There are evil forces behind these horrible events and we must do all we can to shine a light on them and drive them out. That is our responsibility as citizens and even more a responsibility for those who have privilege.

All of this has to stop. Do something. Take action. We must all do something.

Here are some things you can do now:

Read this black college professor’s 2015 account of a police stop, in which he feared for his life. He graphically describes the stop, and his fear. If this doesn’t shake you into action, nothing will.

Be politically active. Don’t spend a single moment quibbling over who should be the blue candidates, just work on their behalf. We have to change the conversation in this country and it begins with making blue the power color. Give money. Make calls. Do whatever you can do to get that evil moron out of the oval. The fine details of changing the world can come later. We need to change the conversation, first.

Have you engaged friends of color in dialogue about these issues? Have you asked questions? Have you even checked in with them during this horrible time? These are things you can easily do on a personal level. Do them now.

Call out injustice and racism when you see it. Call it by its name. Expose it.

Hold law enforcement accountable. There are several excellent manuals with suggestions for action toward police reform circulating right now — this is one of them.

If you’d like to be a true ally to the black community, there is some good advice in this excellent piece.

We end with the question I asked at the beginning: how much do black lives matter to you?

If the answer is, “a lot,” don’t sit silently. We can do better. If each of us do something, that action multiplies. Let’s work together to change the culture that has created this situation and to find solutions.

And let’s do it now.

And as always, I welcome your comments.

21 comments on “How much do black lives matter to you?
  1. Quin says:

    Wonderful! Thank you for writing this!

  2. Karen Austin says:

    Thank you for the links. I read the one posted at Soujourners, which included a lot of ideas I haven’t considered. It’s wise to amplifying black voices in your links.

  3. Karen Austin says:

    PS: I looked at the info for Sojourners. The staff is all white. However, their post does refer to some good sources. I am just trying to retweet black writers as much as possible (especially since my name is Karen! I’m trying to shut up and listen more.)Thanks for not ignoring this salient moment of national / international protest.

  4. This is so good! As a white woman with all my privilege, I have NO idea. I will say that my son’s best friend since 1st grade is now a grown black man. He is a big guy, a gentle giant. I reached out to him and told him how thankful we are for his friendship with my son. I also offered that if his parents ever could not get to him for some reason (if he were in a situation)that we are here for him. It’s not much, but I felt better knowing that he had all of our updated information. He will be 23 this summer, and he says he’s fearful like never before. He is in love with a beautiful young woman. I want him to have everything and more. People need to wake up and do more where they can.

  5. Diane says:

    A few months ago, I read the results of a poll about men and women when they are out in public. Questions like: Do you carry your keys in an ‘armed and ready’ stance? Do you close the garage door before getting out of your car? Do you park near the door of your work so you can get safely from door to vehicle? the men just stared at the questioner blankly. The women were all nodding.
    I know this is different, but it was a real wakeup call for me. The men simply didn’t understand the need for caution. It was totally outside of their wheelhouse. The women knew all too well.
    And I see the same thing here. We whites live in a totally different world. Unaware of what our black brother and sisters face every. Single. Minute.
    Thank you for this, Carol. Every word counts.

  6. I know I’ll make mistakes along the way, but I’m doing the work, reflecting, engaging, listening. I am still miles from truly “getting it.” I am humbled as I make my way there.

  7. I’m doing the work. With humility and an open heart. We have a long way to go.

  8. laurie stone says:

    It’s easy to feel complacent, that there’s nothing we can do. But there’s a lot we can do as you show us. I pray this is a turning point in America, that good comes out of these terrible days.

  9. Awesome post! It’s more than a shame, it’s a travesty, that we even have to think about this in 2020. It’s like we’re back in the 50s again. I got to meet civil rights leaders as a young girl with my father and have a cousin who was a well known civil rights attorney. When “friends” on Facebook give me the All Lives Matter pitch I say tell that to a black lawyer or senator who is afraid to wear a tee-shirt rather than a suit for fear of being harassed by the police.

  10. Mike Wright says:

    to be honest, I don’t understand it is really hard to see a person as human… why decrement people by color or race…

  11. azure says:

    I don’t know exactly what it’s like, but as a daughter of a Holocaust survivor I have some idea. I know how I’ve felt when I’ve been around anti-semites and there are many in the US. Others, like Native Americans, have had to survive horrible, genocidal behavior (usually from whites), at one time, In Oregon, tribal members could ride trains for free . . . but only in the space between cars. Until the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978, it was common for Native American children to be adopted by whites, rather then by members of their extended family There’s a tribal area or reservation near me, that tribe is known as a Confederated tribe because it’s composed of most of the then surviving Native Americans in coastal Oregon. Even though some of those tribes greatly disliked other tribes, they were forced to live together. They were one of the first tribes to regain official tribal status, i.e., their sovereignty after litigation. Despite a tradition of chartiable giving within the wider community, they’re still the target of bigotry and dislike. Despite tribal efforts and increased income, some tribal members still have significant health problems (diabetes) substance abuse issues (a problem for whites too in this area, of course) and finding and using educational and employment opportunities. A number of the tribal members have left the community to attend school (college) and find better jobs. US history is full of systemic injustice against black people, Native Americans, Asians (particularly the Chinese & Japanese), and people w/mental illness. Black men were used to study the effects of syphillis–and the experimental subjects never offered medication that could’ve cured them, many black women, mentally ill or developmentally disabled or just poor, and poor mentally ill/developmentally disabled white women, were sterilized–a governmental choice supported by a U.S. Ct. decision.
    It’s important to work towards a nation that is fairer to all, economically, socially, and in educational opportunities.

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