Beyond the occasional misogynist, I have not had to deal with a whole lot of judgment because of who I am. Well, I guess I have perhaps been judged because of body size or my propensity toward wearing out in public a sweatshirt that I purchased in 1994, but I have never felt that there is something about me that might mean I should fear for my life. I never thought of it as white privilege exactly (I just took it for granted, I think.), but I guess that is what it is.
So last week, on Tuesday, Alton Sterling was selling CDs and DVDs outside of a convenience store in Baton Rouge, and following a confrontation with two police officers, he was shot and killed by the officers. The next day, on Wednesday, Philando Castile was shot in his car by a police officer in suburban Minnesota. And Facebook became filled with people on both sides of the issue of the Black Lives Matter movement.
I have to admit that my first post about these events did not reference BLM. While I did decry the violence against black men by police officers throughout this nation, I chose some different wording and pointed out that ALL lives matter. But in reference to the BLM movement, saying that all lives matter is like saying to someone raising money for breast cancer that they should not differentiate but should be raising money for every other disease as well. All diseases are certainly in need of fundraising efforts, but that specific fundraiser is for breast cancer. Don’t make it about all the other diseases out there. And then Thursday night, during a peaceful protest in Dallas, a sniper who was not part of the protest opened fire and killed five police officers who were there to help keep the peace and intervene if needed. It is certainly a tragedy that these police officers died.
And then the narrative on Facebook changed a little bit. There were the BLM folks. There the ALM folks. And then there were the new Blue Lives Matter folks. And apparently, you had to choose a side.
So yes, all lives matter. And yes, the lives of those police officers matter. But black lives definitely also matter. You don’t have to hate police officers to believe that black lives matter. You can believe in the worth of both. If you support the police, you don’t have to assume that all black people are bad. Caring about black lives and caring about police officers are not mutually exclusive. But this started out as a story about black men being killed by police officers in this country. Unfortunately, it did not stay that way for long.
I have a friend whose comments were so true and meaningful, and I want to paraphrase them here. When a white woman is pulled over by a police officer in a traffic stop, her first thought is probably, “Crap. How much is this going to cost?” or, “Great. Points on my license. Again.” Her internal dialogue will NOT be, “I hope this police officer doesn’t shoot me.” She does not fear for her life.
However, we are reaching a point in time where a black man in the same situation might feel that his life’s in danger. I have friends who have to tell their children that they might someday be in a situation where their actions in such a traffic stop might lead to a police officer shooting first and asking questions later.
Last month, the tragic massacre in Orlando at Pulse of members of the LGBTQIA+ community in one of their “safe” places had people who I care an awful lot about feeling that they may have to fear for their lives because they are not cisgendered heterosexuals. And now I have friends who I care an awful lot about feeling that they may have to fear for their lives and the lives of their family members because they are not white. And that is NOT okay!
There is so much hate in this world, and we LOVE to grab on to a cause and get all offended on social media and take a side and argue our side passionately. And then something else happens, and we are on to the next issue, and these hot button issues fade into the background.
But black lives matter. The same can be said about many other groups, but this week is about black lives. And they matter.
As we head into this year’s Presidential election, we can choose to propagate hate against those who are different than we are. There is a candidate who would certainly be willing to help us out with that. But this country is better than that. And next week, when that candidate has made another asinine comment about another group of people, it might seem like last week’s incidents happened a long time ago.
Please don’t forget. We are more alike than we are different. And it’s time that we start demanding that hate not be allowed to be our story.