09 July 2016

How Will History Record Our Response?



My emotional cup runneth over. I was quite vocal about the issues from earlier this week. I didn't make it Downtown Thursday to support because a friend needed an ear, and that is important to me, too.

I wasn't there, but I know many who were and I'm grateful they are home, safe. I don't have the words to describe how I feel about the events that happened that night. I've been telling you all week how valuable life is to me. That hasn't changed. Doesn't matter if they wear a uniform or are an everyday person.

Life is Valuable and to be Honored

For those who are trying to make this some sort of debate about whether police lives or black lives matter more, you've missed the point entirely. Life is precious and to be honored, no matter what. It's not a matter of putting the life or lives of one against another. Think deeper than that, allow for the fact that there is not an either/or situation happening. There is a massive systemic issue at hand and it has colored all of our thinking.

But I will say this, you can clearly see, when civil servants fall in the line of duty, everyone rallies together to care, to show concern, to voice outrage, to see what can be done. That's good and that's normal. I would hope we care about that. I hope we honor and remember these men with pride and dignity for their service, and their sacrifice.

But when we see black, latino, indigenous, Asian men and women hurt, raped, or killed by the overreach of those in authority, many question why we as people of color (POC, those who have been denigrated by global systems of white supremacy) care, especially since we don't know the person or the families affected. Well, years of oppression, "otherness," and a system against us has shown us something, and that is that collectively our lives don't seem to amount to much in that system. (Again, I am not saying POC lives matter more, so don't see/hear/sense or make it out to be that)

Our deaths or harm can be seen repeatedly through various media, and the court of public opinion will still say we deserved it. I'm not attempting to paint anyone with a broad brush here, again it’s a systemic problem, but hear me when I say, we've learned that our "cornrows" are unprofessional but "boxer braids" are cool. (for those who don’t know, it’s the same hairstyle) That may be a fashion thing, but the point is, the differences in reception to what is done by and to POC and others is vast, this includes our deaths.

I noticed that as Alton Sterling's and Philando Castile's names were trending and the situations were highlighted, there were a few non-POC leaders who said something. There were some who acknowledged that this was painful. We heard the silence of the rest, until Thursday night. I'm not saying everybody has to say something all of the time, because they don’t (and that’s unreasonable), and I’m not attempting to shame anyone. Also, it’s a brilliant thing to know when to hold your tongue (or your fingers). 

But in the face of the recession, leaders said things; in the face of terrorism, leaders said things; in the face of “black-on-black crime” and black fatherlessness leaders say things; Thursday leaders said things. But in the face of black death at the hands of rogue authority figures, there seems to be nothing to say.

The Lt. Governor of Texas somehow believes Black Lives Matter should be held responsible for Thursday night’s tragedy because of their "rhetoric," but he actively allows the KKK to continue in this state - and for those of you who think there is any parallel between the two, I’d ask you to rethink that.

Anarchists Versus Activists

KKK

history.com
Look at history and you’ll see how the system brought about and supported the creation of the notorious supremacy group the Ku Klux Klan. To get things "back in order" after the Civil War, this "fraternity" began. They were afraid and they continued to spread lies about the lack of humanity of black people to justify their actions. 

The KKK has violently destroyed any life or way of life not like their own. They lynched, burned, blew up churches, burned crosses (CROSSES!!) on front lawns, dragged people to death behind vehicles, and more. The KKK believes they represent the chosen, that the rest of us are the problem, and they have a divine right to “deal with others” as they see fit. 

They believe a celebration of diversity or things like interracial marriage are “white genocide” (check that hashtag on Twitter if you’ve ever hoped or actually thought racism was over) In short, the KKK terrorizes and kills. They want to live in an all-white utopia, which sounds a bit like anarchism to me. Also note, if the destruction of other people groups is at the core; there are no “good guys” amongst the KKK.

BLM

Now for Black Lives Matter. It's an activist group, relatively new and borne out of the stress in this nation from repeatedly seeing unarmed black people tried and executed or harmed (reference the girl in McKinney last year) on the street by out of control police officers. Police brutality happens. (Do I really need to insert here that I love and appreciate civil servants and that I’m not anti-police? Of course I do, because that’s life.) BLM also shed light on the death of Zachary Hammond and harm caused to Sureshbhai Patel. They're looking to destroy a system, not people. They meet with and work with leaders for better.


BLM galvanized because this system has displayed that black (POC) victims get put on trial, in actual courts and that of public opinion, while others get taken for food on the way to jail, six months in a cushy jail away from other inmates, or probation along with the benefit of the doubt for things like murdering folks in cold blood in a church, raping an unconscious woman or killing and maiming people while driving drunk. Black Lives Matter exists to bring change to a system that overwhelmingly does not support us, seems bent on destroying us and attempts to blind others to these facts. It hopes to correct the system for the benefit of all. 


The Breakdown

It's also sad that I have to add this, but for those who will miss it, I did not say all black people are perfect, all the time and that there are no criminals among us. There are “bad apples” in every shade, nation, and occupation. There is fatherlessness and crime in other communities, too. Yes, we aware of Chicago. As a matter of fact many black people (and POC) for generations, myself included, have marched and talked and sat down with our own communities and leaders to try to make things better. The only reason some don't know or recognize this is because they're not there and then don't listen when we tell them that we do.

BLM is a rally cry. The phrase does not say "ONLY, Black Lives Matter" but somehow people have been led to believe that's what's being said. The truth is, what is being said is "Black Lives Matter, Too." There probably are some not so “good guys” who use the phrase and consider themselves part of the movement, but that is not a representation of the movement. There are black folks and additional POC who are prejudiced, I’m not denying that. I’ve seen those kinds of situations addressed family to family and I’ve seen people change. Hell, I have a good friend who used to be a white supremacist but changed when he really began to learn about God. But hear me, when POC are prejudiced against someone else, there is not a system behind them supporting it. Those hearts have to be dealt with, too but that’s not what we’re dealing with today. Today this system has to be exposed, seen, accepted as real and changed.

The System

The system looks a lot like me being shadowed when I walk through a store, when no one else there receives that same treatment. The system is the story of the man named Jose who couldn’t get callbacks for jobs until he changed the name on his resume to Joe. The system looks like exorbitant unemployment rates for black people, who are trying to work, who are absolutely trained, educated and qualified, but still can’t find work.

The system looks like no money in poor school districts and those students barely receiving a proper education. The system looks like the situation with the water in Flint. The system looks like a traffic stop where one man explains he has a concealed carry permit and a gun in his glove box and gets a ticket for speeding, but Philando Castile’s body is being prepared for burial. And the system is also filled with smaller issues, called microaggressions, that POC face every day. We feel it. We hear things that we allow to pass through the filter of, "They don't know any better,” so we don’t say anything.

And you may ask why we don't say anything in these moments. Well, when we do we’re told we’re being too sensitive or that “political correctness” is the real problem in America. Also, it looks something like this:

Take 1
POC: "Black, Native, Brown, Asian Lives Matter"
Response: "All Lives Matter"


Take 2
POC: "Look, this Black, Asian, Latino, Native man/woman went into town to get something and was shot in cold blood because he asked a question when the police officer told him to do something he didn't understand or that the person felt was a violation of his/ her right as an American."
Response: "He/She should have complied."
POC: "Philando Castile"
Response: "Why is the fiancee so calm?"


Take 3

POC: "We think some of our state representatives and senators really don't represent us, care about us and they're keeping us from voting."
Response: "You're making that up."
Reality: 
This is a former congressman.

Take 4
POC: "It's very difficult to find work, even when you're qualified." or 
"I was laid off in the massive company changes and it's been difficult to find work." or 
“I’m seriously thinking about changing my name, because I’m not getting callbacks.”

Response: "Pick yourself up by your bootstraps. Nobody helped my family." or
“Lazy, black people always looking for a f-ing handout.” or 
“It’s easier to be black in America, you’ve got affirmative action and all that, I don’t know why they act like they can’t get jobs.” or 
“Poor people are so lazy, they should get an education and do better.” 
{by the way, yes I’ve heard these things myself, sometimes people forget I’m black. Then they say things like, “Well you’re not really black,” which is another conversation altogether.}

What Will We Do?

I could go on but I'm tired and you don't want to read anymore. My point is this, please stop trying to convince us that the reality we live in doesn’t exist just because some don't (or won't) see and accept it. We are working to make it better, as best we can. Not all black people and POC are on or have been on welfare, nor are we looking for a “white savior” or a handout - real talk. 

And there is absolutely nothing wrong with needing help. Please note that even with educational disparities, because separate but equal is a lie and still happens, black women are the most educated segment of the American population. (I’m going to let you Google that for yourself, but there were headlines when the news broke)

Not all immigrants are terrorists or are stealing jobs. Jobs have been sent to other countries for the sake of better bottom-line profitability, because you can underpay workers in other countries that don’t have the same regulations as the U.S. I like profitable companies, that’s important and I like a healthy economy. But when the companies are growing and the people are suffering for it, there might be an issue. Money and power are powerful drugs.

If you truly care about the POC in your lives, I suggest listening to their stories and why it matters that Scarlett Johansson was cast as a Japanese woman, in a distinctly Japanese story or that a white man played Martin Luther King, Jr in a play. Please hear me when I say this, we listen to the "majority" stories and opinions all the time, via media and entertainment. 

We also listen both to what is said and not said. We learn early on that the system of supremacy is one we must know the ins and outs of intimately. We are here, as always at the table, ready to listen even more. We’re just hoping that we finally get to have a say, as well. I don’t see this as "just a skin issue," I’m not trying to guilt anyone into action. I’m writing for the sake of awareness and to selfishly process all of this.

Look, I’m a lover and a reconciler. I look to Jesus as my savior - I have not walked away from that and I’m looking to Him for strength, strategies and answers. Yes, I know “racism is a sin problem, not a skin problem.” But I’m over pat answers and phrases that mean nothing. I’m not here for a round of the blame game and revisionist history. I’m not here to make anyone “get it.” I am here to learn, understand, grow, and do my part to change history.

When I’m done grieving, I will get up stronger than ever. I want to work together to correct a broken system. I don’t hate anyone. Indifference and dismissal get me pretty riled up, though. I am one who chooses to love and forgive, but that does not mean I don’t observe and recall. Y’all I’m tired and yes, I am angry but I am not bitter. I am still grieving the losses from this week, two black men from other states and five police officers from my own hometown. Dallas, the eyes of the world are on us.

My ancestors, literally and figuratively, alongside many allies and friends, worked too hard for us to devolve in this moment. Can we not reason together and bring this change more than 400 years in the making? Let’s do this, people.
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