It's sad that we have to have a campaign with the above hashtag. But it's sadder, still, that we see black lives snuffed out on a semi-regular basis on social and other media. The recently released footage of the Castillo murder by Minnesota cops comes to mind. Traffic stops of gun-carrying white people don't go down like that!
I fear that some of the backlash to the Black Lives Matter campaign is rooted in ignorance. I also fear the the younger generation, and I'm talking here about GenY'ers and those after them, are unaware of what the world was like in the decades before they were born...in the years I grew up. So let me set the stage for you...
I grew up in the 1970's. Born in 1968, I grew up on Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood and Captain Kangaroo. I'm part of the generation that grew up watching a lot of pre-cable TV. In those days, you didn't see a lot of black people or black families portrayed on television, or in mainstream media in general. There was no black Marlboro man. In fact, unless you read an ethnic publication, like Ebony magazine, you basically saw NO PEOPLE OF COLOR in any advertising, print or electronic, whatsoever! The first shows featuring black characters that I remember are Sanford and Sons and Fat Albert, both of which came on TV in 1972. Both shows were largely centered around junkyards. No implied message there!
Back then, we had 3-4 channels to choose from, so getting even ONE show with an all-black cast, tackling the issues of urban life, was a big deal. We didn't have shows like Blackish, channels like Black Entertainment Television (BET), or game show/talk show hosts like Steve Harvey. When I was very little, we had two shows! After that, Good Times, the Jeffersons and others became popular, but they were an anomaly. In all of TV History, prior to the 70's, you were hardpressed to find major characters who were anything but white.
Consider that. As a kid growing up 40 years ago, I still didn't see as many blacks represented in the media as I saw all around me in Indianapolis. And worse still, the swim club closest to my childhood home restricted access to non-Jewish whites only! My parents refused to join or to let us go there with our friends. Even then, I understood why.
A decade removed from the victories of the civil rights movement and there still wasn't much equality in America. I was shaken from my white superiority by the Roots miniseries that aired on ABC when I was 8. I'm glad my mom let me watch it. It made me look at my neighborhood friend, Gerald, through different eyes.
I share all that because I fear that teens, twenty and even thirty-somethings today don't realize that the world was still very segregated just 30-40 years ago. In fact, I was bussed to a different school across town in 8th grade as part of Indianapolis Public School's desegregation efforts. That was 1981-82! Things didn't magically get better with the civil rights movement in the 1960's. It's been an ongoing fight. It's taken decades just to get where we are today.
I had a well-meaning friend on Facebook give me his .02:
"The problem that i have with that slogan is that i should be able to say all lives matter, but i can't. I have been verbally attacked for saying it. Why? As long as society and people keep saying "white this" and "black that" we will never be free of racism. Both sides have it... but, there shouldn't be sides. My 5 year old daughter doesn't see skin color. She sees people. So, why are we as adults perpetuating the segregation?
It's time to be humans or earthlings.
Btw, i totally get what you're saying. I'm not saying that black lives don't matter, but please try to see what I'm saying as well. All lives should matter, except for terrorists. They should be destroyed"
The manifold problem with this "white people logic" begins with it's foundation. It wasn't blacks who created the divide amongst humanity. By and large, it was white people. It began with the premise that races OTHER THAN white were somehow inferior. In the case of Africans, they were classified subhuman. The African slave was classified chattel. They were no different than livestock and often treated WORSE! So white people created the US v. THEM culture between themselves and everyone of a "lesser race" (blacks were often referred to as "mud race"). This culture has been so prevalent, even in the last century, that the American public got a rude awakening with the civil unrest of the 1960's.
That's the culture into which a great percentage of today's African-American was born. They were welcomed into a world of inequality onto an unlevel playing field that was stacked against them. And just because the field is a bit more level today, it didn't make their lives any easier in the last fifty years. They had to overcome obstacles. They faced cruelty and injustice that many in the fairer race can't even comprehend. So when they say "black lives matter," it is rooted in the deep, dark history of civilization where their lives really DIDN'T matter to white people.
The phrase itself doesn't imply anything other than what it says, "Black lives matter." Period. End of statement.
What it DOESN'T say?
"Black lives matter more."
"White lives matter less."
"Cops matter even less."
It's simply a fight for equality...a fight that began ions ago and continues today. Why it puts those of other races on the defensive is beyond me.
But it does prove that white privilege still exists. It is so ingrained in us, that we feel slighted by the exclusion from the motto "black lives matter." Why we feel the need to argue, "What about us?" Well, white friends, our lives have ALWAYS mattered! We didn't have to fight for equality. We didn't have to suffer attack dogs, gestapo police tactics, terrorists (like the KKK and irate Southerners) and a government bent on keeping us marginalized just to maintain our civil rights. No, those have never been threatened or in question, not in any way. So why do we feel threatened by the fight for black equality?
I'll save my comments on "color blindness" for a different post, but the above statements pretty well sum up my feelings about non-blacks who have a problem with #blacklivesmatter.
You may wonder why this issue resonates so much with me. I'm not just some do-gooder white dude looking for a cause. I'm not suffering from white guilt. I simply want my daughter, my niece and my nephew, who are all or part African-American, to grow up in a world that seems 100 YEARS AHEAD of the society in which I grew up. We need to see RAPID progress where civil rights are concerned, not just racial equality, but sexual, gender and in every other way! I care because I love my kid and her cousins, dearly. I want a better world for them. And ever since I was a little kid, racism has made my blood boil.
Thank you for reading my blog post.