No Justice, No Sleep

25 Jun

We interrupt your regularly scheduled program of random writing about Oaxaca/Kentucky cultural exchanges to remind you that BLACK LIVES MATTER. And to ask all of my fellow white friends and family and beloved strangers reading this, what are we going to do about it?

Because, seriously, y’all. How are you sleeping at night? I am feeling the trauma from all the way down here in southern Mexico, and wondering how that can not be the case for everyone else. I mean, aren’t you fed up with case after case after case of men, women, and children being killed for… for being black. What else can you call it, whether you’re a sociologist or just a human being observing our society? Look at the data! Look at all of these people’s beautiful faces, each one with a family missing them, each one who was making an impact in the world in their way before they were so cruelly and pointlessly interrupted.

How many more? How many more people have to die senselessly, just for being black, before all of us white people -at least the ones who say we are not racist- can wake up and stand up? How many more? How many more examples and cases do you need, when killers go free, before you can admit that our whole system is racist? Before we can talk about all the ways in which we implicitly and explicitly devalue black lives, individually and systemically?

How many more people need to get shot IN FRONT OF THEIR BABIES before it hits home? How many more BABIES, how many kids need to be murdered before we cry enough to get mad and do something? How many more pleas for justice do we need from small children who are living with this constant trauma every day before we all get together behind the already strong leadership of black folks in our country fighting this and back them up?

Those of us (white folks) out there saying, “But I’m not racist! I have black friends!”: What would the world look like if instead, we really put ourselves in someone else’s shoes? What if all the people being affected by this mass slaughter (when it’s not mass incarceration or other forms of mass oppression and destruction)- were your brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and mothers and fathers and yes, our sweet, sweet babies? What if you looked at your 17 year old headed out the door in his hoody and felt panic, the same panic that clutches at you every time he walks out the door, because he could be the next Trayvon Martin? Or what if you’re that mom that you didn’t want to be, that’s too strict, that has never let your kid play with even water guns, that barely lets your kid out of the house, because what if he’s the next 12 year old Tamir Rice?

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Tamir Rice

How can you think about these babies, how can you hear that sweet four year old begging her mommy not to scream so she doesn’t get “shooted” too, and not be heartbroken, devastated, and questioning humanity? How can you not be motivated to action, thinking about these and all the other children who deserve so much more than this?

How many more black folks have to get killed- and their killers without penalty or remorse, without a shred of justice- before we (white people) react collectively? How many more Terrence Crutchers, shot for not lying down on the ground? How many more Walter Scotts, shot while running away from an officer? How many more Eric Garners, killed by excessive force for suspicion of selling loose cigarettes? How many more Philando Castiles, who did everything right and still got killed in front of his four year old? (And the four year old’s Mommy was then ARRESTED and taken away. Can you imagine? What would it take to picture your white four year old daughter/niece/friend’s kid in her place? This case especially destroyed part of my soul, looking into the eyes of my sweet four year old at the time.) How many more deaths like Charleena Lyles, pregnant, shot in front of her children, despite police being aware that she was dealing with mental health issues? HOW MANY MORE before we can quit making excuses for each and every case, before we can quit looking for reasons to blame the victim, before we look at the whole picture and realize that our whole system is built on racism?

Realizing that racism is everywhere doesn’t make you a bad person, dearly beloveds. On the contrary, we have to realize it, admit it, in order to refuse to accept it. Even realizing that something that you personally do/say/believe is racist potentially makes you a better person, because then you can change it (but only if you change it- growth and learning is everything). We cannot be “color blind” and all one “human race,” because that is not the society that we live in. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true. How can you be colorblind after you listen to this little girl’s words?  

If you can watch that little girl speak, if you can look at all of these cases, stare into the faces of their family members, imagine the loss, let yourself feel even a portion of the trauma, of what it means for you, your family, your children to be seen as more expendable than the rest of society, if you can do all that and still somehow convince yourself that we’re not currently living in the next major civil rights movement, and that it is all of our human duty to speak out and work against this, toward a better world… then I don’t know who you are or if you are capable of empathy at all.

Sigh.

None of what I’m writing is new or prolific or eloquent or anything else impressive.  So many other folks have said all this so much better than I. But I feel helpless and desperate and I want all of us white folks to be talking about it. I feel so sick about it, and then I think, “Shit! I’m a white woman! How much worse would I feel if I were black and dealing with all this?” And to many of you reading this, I’m already preaching to the choir. Hopefully my Black/African-American friends aren’t even reading this, because you don’t need this information. You already know all this and so much more. And I haven’t even mentioned all the other racism that goes along with this. The constant threat of being killed is the worst of it, but on top of that there are a million other ways that Black folks experience discrimination, in big and small ways, constantly, every single day.

I feel the need to write this in my blog because we all- all of us white folks who are not part of Steve Bannon’s and Jeff Session’s agendas- need to be speaking up all the time. We have to get over our own egos and quit trying to prove that “I’m not racist.” Just because you don’t have a swastika on your forehead, just because you don’t have a confederate flag flying does not make you anti-racist. Not actively lynching someone doesn’t make us less complicit in the crime if we’re not doing anything to stop it. I don’t have all the answers to stop it, either. But there are answers, and folks in the Black Lives Matter Movement are coming up with lots of proactive answers, but they’re not being heard. We white people need to be supporting them, backing them up, doing our part, putting ourselves on the line (without trying to take over). But that’s not enough, either. We white folks also have to keep talking to our fellow white folks, especially friends and family, and bringing them over to our side- the side of collectively crying for these sweet babies until we are ready to do something, bringing us all to action, instead of just having black friends or not being blatantly discriminatory. In many places there are even organizations specifically for white folks to participate in anti-racist actions, such as SURJ- Showing Up for Racial Justice. There’s so much to do! So much to read, so many folks to get to know and collaborate with to make our world a more just place. Let’s stand together and show we mean it when we say that Black Lives Matter.

(And please, please, my fellow white folks- don’t be shy! Feel free to ask me why I say Black lives matter instead of “All of matter”! I’m happy to discuss. xoxoxo)

 

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