Yep. Black Lives Matter.
I'm creating this post to share my own story of progress in understanding the movement of #blacklivesmatter. I was debating on Facebook with a group and discussing articles that have helped formulate my opinion and I want to share in one place that feels appropriate for a long-form response.
Thing is, stuff is complex. Growth takes time. And opening your eyes isn't always an overnight development.
About a year ago, a parent of a high school friend said to me, "How're things going up there in Minneapolis? I hear you got a lot of towel-heads marching in these Black Lives Matter protests. Sounds pretty scary."
I was stunned. Towel-heads? Are you confusing (what I believe you perceive as) a Muslim as a protester for BLM? Is this ignorance? Or is it racism?
Granted, while I was confronted with an ignorant perception of the movement, I couldn't help but deepen my consideration for what this all means. Its about this time that I saw the #alllivesmatter start popping up and I started to challenge my own potential racism.
I was struggling to understand the BLM movement. And really, I'm still figuring out my own journey inside of this movement (as so many of us are). We need to make efforts to not judge (duh, of course) but also to not look at a black man with fear when I encounter him on the street. I've done that. I can remember in the past months where I still do this.
Does this make me a hypocrite to have, what is defined as implicit bias, as I approach a certain archetype on a street, at the same time that I am actively participating (in all of my adult years) in the human right movement, specific to the GLBTQ?
Here are a few articles I urge you to read, which have helped organize the chaos of these debates, as well as moving through my feelings of sympathy and empathy.
Net-net: Please, people: We need more sympathy and empathy. We cannot keep going like this.
Oh, and what about the person that misunderstood BLM...What did I say to her? Nothing, really, as I only said, "They aren't towel-heads, they are black people in a peaceful protest". And the guilt of not saying anything has rang in my brain since. I took the easy way out, figuring that a conversation would be energy wasted.
We have to start conversations, no matter how hard they are to have. The same applies to gun rights, GLBTQ rights, and on and on. If you believe in it, make yourself uncomfortable by having a conversation that places you somewhere outside of your comfort zone. We must never give up on what we believe to be the right thing to do.
Article 1: Mapping Police Violence
Please note the statistics within this article. It is a good way to level-set and add faces and also realize how many police have been charged for murder. And please take a moment to consider how low this number is. Maybe take a moment to read it, then skim the pictures on the page. Close your eyes, maybe just for a sec or two. Unarmed. Shot. No charges filed against most of these cases.
Candidly, these images show what white culture has curated as a ‘thug’ stereotype of what a black man looks like. They can be an upstanding citizen in the community, and still have saggy jeans. Yep, I know that is an alarming concept. Yep, we think that is a thug. Change your paradigm.
Article 2: Don't compare police shootings to black-on-black crime
Written today, the day that we wake to see a Facebook Live video of a gun in a car window, a woman holding her phone in her hands as they are in the air, and her boyfriend dies almost literally in her arms, this commentary is particularly relevant and powerful.
"I have in mind, rather, the vividness of a past in which the violence of the dominant race was simply part of the American background."
This statement delivers and confirms much of the the root problem: The dominance of White.
Here's where you may be saying during this conversation, "Well, don't all lives matter?" and yes, you are absolutely right. They do.
That is, until we have a battle like we do now. Until they are killing unarmed black men to the tune of 5x's more than a white man.
Why would the white man be dominant over the black man? There are historical issues to consider, and while we struggle to realize their eternal impact, this is the foundation of where we are today:
White men owned black men.
White men shipped black men on boats. They were treated as livestock.
Schoolbooks shy away from the brutality of an honest narrative of this American experience. It wasn’t until Roots, in the 1970’s, that some say it was finally a truth-telling experience of what being a slave was like. And even then, it was too late. Why did this take so long, many asked.
If you were black, you couldn’t sit at the same table as a white man.
The white man said your lips touching their water fountain will infect them.
"The alarming rate of black-on-black crime threatens our concrete security. The killing of blacks by whites, particularly police, touches something more elemental, a sense of fragility within a race still struggling to throw off the burdens, both psychic and economic, of the nation's tortured history.”
These burdens cut broadly.
Article 3: Why do US police keep killing unarmed black men?
I find this article to be the grandest in its reach, as it covers numerous aspects of how this debate is formed.
One note from this article that is particularly unsettling is that the percentage of likelihood of an unarmed black man to be in 2014 was 3 times higher than a white man, and that has now risen to 5 times. This article also discusses the concern of implicit bias, meaning that you may have a likelihood to see a situation differently based upon your upbringing, or current economic and social status.
And it’s important to remember, we are all somewhat culpable of this bias. While it may be inherently unintentional, we must work to free ourselves from feeling a certain way to a situation or person while encouraging our intuition to play a role of color-blindness, as well as open to beliefs that may challenge our own.
Where this becomes particularly challenging is when we see crime statistics favor black men. While there are economic, cultural, and societal factors that are largely responsible, they should not be held accountable to their crime by being murdered. From the article, as told by Seth Stoughton:
"Officers are trained to view every encounter as a potential deadly force incident: you walk up to a person who is loitering outside of a convenience store, their hands are in their pockets. You as the officer begin talking to them, and without saying a word they pull a gun out of their pocket and begin shooting you.
“Training involves an average of about 60 hours on deadly force - the use of firearms - and just over 60 hours on self defense. Compare that to de-escalation conflict resolution training: the average there is only eight hours of training, and most of that is classroom-based.
“When the military is designing a mission, they have in mind the fact that they're going to lose soldiers. The police profession has strongly repudiated that notion. No officer fatalities are acceptable.
"If all of the states had the same approach and the same numbers of officer-involved homicides as the best states, the states that had the fewest, we could expect about 300 to 600 lives to be saved every year."
Article 4: Shooting to Wound
Finally, this was eye-opening to me, to see that the perception of ‘shoot to kill’ and ‘shoot to wound’ is largely a made-up, prime-time drama notion. I’ll let the article speak for itself.
Finally, a word about white privilege. Ask these of yourself:
If you can turn-off the feelings of fear, or that you just can't deal with the killing, then you have white privilege. The fear is real, and when something is real, you will struggle with the off button for your fear.
If you can ask yourself if, in college, you never considered yourself to have gotten there solely upon your academic prowess, and never about your ability to be good at sports.
You think just because it doesn't relate to you, then it's not your problem.
Asking yourself if you are racist, or a hypocrite for feeling conflicted (albeit guilty) about your involvement in the human rights movement. That you can't reconcile the feelings you have right now.
I realize it's hard to figure this out. And I'm angry at myself, at our society. I'm angry that people die and that the only thing that we do is tweet and post to Facebook. Above all, I'm angry that my Black friends have to take this into consideration as they greet their day. That a mother has to have a discussion with their son about this. I'm so angry. As such, here is a list of resources that are helpful, if you would like to get involved. Thank you to a man name Erik for posting this on Facebook, as I'm copying/pasting as a reference for us:
Minneapolis: Here is where you find info on our Police Conduct Oversight Commission (PCOC). They hold public meetings the 2nd Tuesday of each month, including next Tuesday, July 12, at 5pm and 6pm - Room 241 - City Hall, 350 S 5th Street.
Current commissioners represent just 6 of the 13 city wards. Is your ward represented? Either way, go to the meetings and have your voice heard. Ask questions. Consider applying to be a commissioner. 3 seats have terms ending 12/31/16. The process is on the site.
Here is a list of City Council Members and a map of their wards. Do you know who your ward's council member is? Do you know where they stand on police reform? Ask. It is their job to answer you. If they don't answer you? Don't vote for them again.