My beautiful friend Una cruised into town after a trek from Pittsburgh and I asked her if she was down to join me at a peaceful protest for Black Lives Matter after such a long drive. As my friends go, she immediately answered let’s do this thing.
I’ve participated in these things before (I’m not patting myself on the back I’m giving context) and this was the first time I was really scared. To be clear, I was not scared of those at the rally I was scared of the death threats leveled at the organizers and the black trucks with American flags circling the park that made it clear they were carrying concealed weapons.
My role as a white person at this event was to listen. This was not a time to talk about my experiences in the world. I was brought to tears when over and over again the message was “black lives matter, too.” I was asked to look into the eyes of the man standing next to me, a man of color, and after just a few moments he asked me not to cry (I wish he hadn’t felt the need to care for me at that time). We hugged tightly. Just two humans trying to make sense of all the bad.
The consistent themes of the event were love and listening. One women filled the park with her cry of “Don’t talk over me”
If you think the Black Lives Matter movement is in opposition to Blue Lives you are not taking the time to listen. The truth is, people of color are more likely to die at birth, die from treatable illnesses, suffer in poverty, and be profiled. If you can’t accept that their experience is real and it’s caused by hundreds of years of systemic racism, you’re not listening.
It’s okay to feel badly about this as a white person. That’s how change happens. In my experience, we get defensive and we don’t listen or appreciate another person’s experience. We ridge up and say they deserve what they get because they’re doing it to themselves.
It’s easier that way isn’t it? To say someone’s pain is not real because maybe I played a role in causing it or allowing it to continue.
Well, this white lady will not talk over you. I will stand next to you and say that your life does matter. I will examine my own implicit and explicit biases. I will not stand in silence because I’m scared of what others might feel about me.
When you look back on history at things like slavery, the holocaust, Jim Crow, and the AIDS epidemic: they endured because of the fear of the people to say this is wrong. I will do my best to use my social capital that is my white privilege to speak truth to power.
As it turned out, the protest, was in fact peaceful and powerful.
Yes, all lives matter, of course. Yes, blue lives absolutely matter. We just need black lives to matter, too.