Black Lives Matter.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve spent the better part of the last week weeping, nonstop. I’ve been following along on Twitter as the events of the last week, and month, and year have developed live, and have been horrified along with the rest of the world. But the back-to-back killings of two black men, followed by the killing of 5 police officers at a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas, completely undid me. I just feel completely unable to cope with the devastation and overwhelming sadness and despair over race relations in the United States (and the rest of the world) right now. And probably like most of you, I feel helpless to change any of it.
My friends of color are reeling. They’ve had to live with this kind of devastation their entire lives, so none of this is new to them. But what I think causes the greatest sadness, and I could be wrong here, is that on top of the danger of racism, is the constant defending they have to do about their black experience to white people. Not only do my black and brown friends live in fear of a very real danger to their lives every single day, they’re constantly having to defend the truth of that experience to white people who don’t believe it’s true.
It’s hard to believe this kind of terrorism exists every day in America. Or anywhere in the world. Hard for people like me who’ve grown up in homogeneous, white, middle class American neighborhoods without even the benefit of religious diversity. It’s hard for me to understand the kind of hate black people encounter just by living their lives every day. But whether or not we, as white people, understand or experience it, is irrelevant.
What matters, what’s critical, is that we BELIEVE the stories of those telling us it’s happening. It’s our job to figure out what we can do to come together, as white allies, as Americans, as human beings, to alleviate this burden. Because, clearly, it doesn’t matter if black people try stand up for themselves. It isn’t enough, because this country is governed, and the rules are made by, white people. White men, mostly. The deck is stacked against black people, whether or not you believe that to be true.
So, what can you do? Start by listening. When your friends, or neighbors, or colleagues of color share their experiences, LISTEN to them. BELIEVE what they’re telling you is true. Speak up when people make racist comments. Shut it down. Defend, love, and listen. Because your privilege is as real, and as much a part of your white DNA as slavery is to black history.
The reason we need to say Black Lives Matter, is because they don’t currently matter as much in America as white lives. The lives of black Americans aren’t as safe or privileged as those of white Americans. By saying Black Lives Matter, you’re saying, yes, black lives ALSO matter. They matter as much as white lives, and brown lives, and police officer’s lives. When you say White Lives Matter, it’s redundant.
So please, if you do anything today, listen. LISTEN, love, and be vulnerable enough to believe.