Do Black Lives Matter?

You know, for me with Black Lives Matter, up until two nights ago it was kind of like an intellectual exercise for me. “OK, what are the arguments, which ones are logical, which ones are flawed, what arguments are justifiable, which ones aren’t.” And when I decided I supported the Black Lives Matter movement, it was an intellectual decision. “Yes, ‪#‎blacklivesmatter‬ makes sense. ‪#‎Alllivesmatter‬ is a reactionary and defensive response that does not make sense and is rooted in insecure and context-less emotional reactions of white americans who feel vaguely threatened by having to sit and talk about problems they don’t see and don’t understand.”
But after watching the video of Phillando Castille dying, that changed for me. For about two hours, I didn’t want to pick my brain trying to post the most persuasive Facebook comments to try and convince people why #Alllivesmatter and ‪#‎Bluelivesmatter‬ logic is flawed and hurtful. Because I honestly was crying too hard to do that. That video is honestly one of the saddest things I have ever watched in my life. It’s rare when I cry like that, crying where it’s painful, not therapeutic, where I just want to stop, where it actually hurts. Usually crying is cathartic for me, this is one of those times where it felt more like plain suffering.
That’s when I decided I needed to take a moment and just give space to how SAD all of this is. It’s so, immeasurably sad. I can’t imagine sitting next to my husband as he dies. I can’t imagine having to keep my hands where they are as he dies. I can’t imagine knowing I had to record it for proof of what happened. And you know what? I can’t imagine being a police officer, just having shot a man four times, the gravity of what I just did dawning on me, the regret and adrenaline pouring into my bloodstream as I completely panic. Yes, the officer in that video made me cry as well. Because no one wants to feel that heavy of regret. No one wants to make that big of a mistake. And the fact that officers are being put in that position, whether it’s because they aren’t being adequately trained or because they aren’t being exposed to people of color in their daily life but then are being allowed to patrol black communities, or because they subconsciously have been reassured by our broken system that if you kill a black person it’s not really going to matter. Nobody is winning here.
It’s sad. it’s sad that our country was built on the backs of slaves. No, that’s not irrelevant now just because it’s 2016. It will always be relevant. It has shaped our neighborhoods. It has shaped what color people have what jobs. It has shaped everything. It’s built the context we all grew up in, that we all had our first thoughts and lessons in. And if we ignore that sad reality, of course we will stay confused and insecure.
I really wish we didn’t have this history, but God, doesn’t it give us an opportunity for an amazing comeback. If we really did it, if we really all got on equal footing and figured this out. So now after that moment of sadness, it’s back to the drawing board. it’s back to figuring out answers. And here’s what I have to offer: If white people put their egos aside and just listened, just listened to black people’s truths. Instead of feeling defensive because you don’t know how to fix the problem, or feeling defensive because you try really hard not to be racist so don’t know what else you can do, or feeling angry because your life isn’t easy either, or because you’ve had an experience with a black person that left you scared or bitter…if you just relax. And don’t freak out if you have a different gut reaction upon seeing a person of color than upon seeing a fellow white person. Don’t freak out if you find yourself relating more to white families than black families. Just relax. No ones asking you to recode your brain, and I think this is part of the problem. It’s normal to relate to people we see ourselves in. We don’t need to push those differences under the rug. That’s part of the problem. All we need to do is just listen, and stop letting our white guilt or our white insecurity ruin yet another chance history is giving us for redemption.
It doesn’t matter how you feel when you look at a person of color. What matters is what you think and do when you look at them. And what matters is that if you had the choice, you probably wouldn’t want to be treated the way a black person is treated in this country. That’s all that matters, those two things. They are enough to say “I am responsible for my behavior despite my feelings” and “I spot an inequality in this society, and as an American, it’s my job to help set it right.” If the white community could internalize those two truths, instead of worrying so much about our feelings, I think things could change. This is simply about what is right and what is wrong. What is fair and what is not. And we need to get clear on this. We need to get this together as a country. We need to. Because we can’t have any more of these videos. For the sake of all of our souls, we really can’t.

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