Those of who still make up the majority of this nation, who are still walking through the world with a certain privilege bought by the lack of melanin in our skin; we owe something. You might not think so, but we owe something. Oh, I know I have heard the song and dance many times before I could likely put it to music and do a soft shoe shuffle:
- I didn’t own slaves
- My family didn’t own slaves
- My family fought for the Union
- I have Black Friends, it isn’t me
- I voted for Barack Obama, I’m a Liberal it isn’t me
- Slavery was 200 years ago, racism is dead
The list goes on, sometimes ad infinitum. So, I ask the question again, what do we owe those of us privileged not to walk through the world in fear, what do we owe?
There are those who would answer nothing. To them I say, leave my sight, get out of my space, don’t breathe my air, please. Yes, I try to say it nicely.
There are those who would say, little; maybe, they could send money because money soothes their conscious and allows them to continue with their comfortable lives unencumbered with the dirt and grime of what is happening outside. To them I say, well make it a big check and remember your children might someday ask what you did, where you were and how you made a difference. How will you answer them?
Then there are those, like me who struggle with the question. Who struggle with how to reach across the chasm of righteous fury, who can no longer find the words to express our own fury at the quagmire of injustice, blood and brutality that is now in the light of day. There are those, like me who are not the enemy, but we surely do look like them. What can we do, even as we stand up and try to reach across the abyss of mistrust and fury, what can we do? Our empathy is shallow, we who cannot walk in the shoes, cannot slip into the skin; we cannot fully empathize because we cannot place ourselves even for a minute in the position of the mother mourning her dead child, the father who cannot find work simply because of the color of his skin, the youth stopped and frisked one hundred times before he is eighteen for walking on a city street; we cannot feel what they feel, not even for a minute.
What can we do, our compassion seems almost misplaced, sometimes more like sympathy or pity both of which are unwelcome and most especially as we barely move from our comfortable chairs. What can we do, our anger at the injustice seems unfocused as we sit contentedly ensconced in suburbia, nodding our heads and listening to other people telling us, ‘it is terrible out there’. There are those like me who are at a loss, our voices silenced by our inability to speak coherently our own rage, our own fear, our own pain; despite our inability to walk in shoes already filled, some of us, many of us are enraged and want to find our place in a fight that should be ours as well. What do we do, when we can only speak from what we know and who we are, from our own experiences and our own hearts and minds, how do we bring that to a table brimming with righteous pain, rage and mistrust.
I don’t know the answer to either question anymore. I know we must stop trying to over-write and invalidate the clarion call of the movements for justice.
#BLACK LIVES MATTER ≠ #ALL LIVES MATTER
I know we would all like to think ‘All Lives Matter’, it has a pretty ring doesn’t it? The fact is, right now, it isn’t a movement of ‘All Lives’, some of our lives have always mattered, some of us have always had a preferred position, a front seat on the bus. This right now is a different thing, it is not all about ‘All Lives’, it is not about us or you, it is a movement for Justice, for Equality in Justice and it is focused on a community of people who have not received justice since the first sale of African Slaves, known as the ’20 and odd’ in 1607 on these shores.
From 1607 through centuries of slavery, Jim Crow to today with institutional and structural racism built into every corner of our social, cultural and geo-political foundations we have proven ‘all lives’ do not matter, only some matter. What can we do? We can stop hijacking movements, stop being insulted when ‘we’ aren’t included as a matter of principal, stop arguing that we matter; we have mattered for four hundred years, get over it. For once, we can honor the call of another movement, rally to a call that is not specifically ours, be foot soldiers instead of officers, if the movement for justice is to be cohesive and acknowledged, we can simply repeat the call rather than change it.
What do we owe?
I don’t know. Maybe we owe our bodies on the front line, standing in front of police in riot gear protecting those who have been without shields for far too long. Maybe we owe that. Maybe we owe our voices, our demands added to theirs for justice, for equality; maybe we owe that as more than lip service.
I don’t know, what we owe. I don’t know what we can do. Maybe we ask and if we are told nothing, we have done enough; just maybe we should take it, accept it sit down and shut up and wait until we are invited to the party rather than demand our voices be heard.
Perhaps we see ourselves as something other than the enemy, but you know maybe it is just too damned late, maybe it has gone on too damned long. Perhaps, we have allowed by our inaction, our blind indifference the disparity of our systems to corrupt our nation to such an extent, even those of us who wish to reach across the chasm can’t find the right bridge.
What is the answer? I wish I knew.