A 17-year-old civil rights demonstrator, defying an anti-parade ordinance of Birmingham, Ala., is attacked by a police dog on May 3, 1963. On the afternoon of May 4, 1963, during a meeting at the White House with members of a political group, President Kennedy discussed this photo, which had appeared on the front page of that day’s New York Times. (AP Photo/Bill Hudson)
What do you say when your “White” friend calls to ask “What is the deal with Black Lives Matter?”
In “Black” culture there are sayings like “children are to be seen not heard; don’t talk back to adults; think before you speak.” Respect has circulated around a lot in media surrounding the last two weeks of shootings in the USA following the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, the 5 Officers shot in Dallas and the 3 Officers shot in Baton Rouge Louisiana. The idea is that respect is now something that is given and not earned. That is a two-way street. Black People in particular are always astonished when White Kids say crazy things to their parents, including name calling which we know would not fly in our homes. So when my friend who I do love dearly called me – this is kind of how that conversation went.
So what is the deal with Black Lives Matter, I am a humanist and all lives matter to me. I kind of don’t get it.
That is kind of the point that you do not get it, but if you believe that all lives matter, then you have to support the idea of Black Lives Matter. Did you see my rant on Twitter? Is that why you are calling?
No, I really wanted insight.
Hmm I kind of wish you had read what I posted on Twitter – then we might have a starting point, but as best as I can explain it, the average White person does not look at the relationship of African people, African American people within the context of time. And I am not really talking as far back as slavery – that is part of it, the beginning if you will. People like me, born in the 1970’s are the first generation of Black people born with any real sense of freedom in this country. And although some of the money behind Black Lives Matter is questionable, the 10 list of demands that they came up with is actually reasonable and would benefit all Americans. I cannot recall them all, but here are the ones I can remember:
• An end to Police policing themselves – that does not work and across different industries that has not worked. So create community based or independent review boards.
• All officers should wear body cameras and foster transparency.
• This is one is more of a society thing and not a Black Lives Matter demand, but officers are trained to shoot to kill and it seems to escalate situations and there has to be a Federal standard across the board that reflects our society to not be kill oriented. To injure and restrain, rather than shoot to kill, and to de-escalate situations where the public has an encounter with law enforcement.
Statistically more White people actually die at the hands of law enforcement, and even with this knowledge there are White people who will not get on board with Black Lives Matter when numbers show they would benefit the most. I have seen and heard such terrible things on social media and it is sad. Black people disproportionately die at the hands of law enforcement when compared to percentage of society and that is not something that can be ignored.
I went on to tell her about the things that I did tweet on Twitter and how the “All Lives Matter” campaign was not one of solidarity with “Black Lives Matter” it was a counter measure used as if to discount the focus on Black Lives, to silence the cry from Black people – because all people are a priority. And my challenge to that idea is steeped in history and was what my tweets reflect:
• January 1, 1923 when the town of Rosewood Florida was burned to the ground by White People.
• June 1, 1921 when Black Wall Street, Greenwood section of Tulsa Oklahoma was burned to the ground by White People.
• Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment was conducted on Black Males from the 1930’s – the 1972.
• Eugenics program in Puerto Rico sterilizing women, of color from the 1930’s – the 1970’s.
• Brown vs Board of Education ended segregation in schools in 1954.
• Civil Rights Act of 1964 went into law.
• CIA and Freeway Rick Ross unloaded tons of crack cocaine in Los Angeles to pay for US Government war in Nicaragua in the 1980’s.
• Predatory loans were placed in African American and Latino communities leading up to the 2008 real estate bubble.
• Flint Michigan water crises 2014.
I went on to tell her that my great grandmother died at 106 years old in 2012. There is this idea in White communities that her stories and family folklore of her life experiences in this country are somehow not passed on when things are said like “get over it,” but as her great-grand daughter – I know her life stories. I went on to tell her how my grandmother who is still alive and is 86 years old has shared her stories – and those stories are not pleasant or even fair, but being born when they were born in this country as Black women – life in the South was pre-determined and that is a reality.
My friend went on to tell me how her grandmother was a racist and she was from the South. She went on to tell me she thankfully was not raised like that because her father brought her to California to live and she was raised around both Black and Latino people. I had to then share with my friend that when it comes to old White people – I move cautiously around them because the reality is when I look at an old White person I do not know what side of the Civil Rights movement they were on and I do not make assumptions. I wait to see how the interact with me and I take no offense for the older people that I have encountered that have chosen not to interact with me – their issue and ism is theirs to deal with not mine.
My friend went on to say how because she was raised in a mixed community she does not really look at a person’s race, she just wait’s to see whether they are an asshole or not. I told her I hold a similar litmus test, which she could see from when we worked together in Real Estate – I as hiring manager for the accounting department had a rainbow coalition. What matters to me on a personal level is who are you as an individual and in the work place what matters is can you do what I need you to do at a high level of performance. Even accents do not bother me – and she reminded me of that fact with one hire, and I said well he was also the quickest termination because of his performance and people could not understand him over the phone – which for our business was a problem. But race does matter – if you ask me to describe someone – I will lead with that and get into features and detail.
I went on to tell my friend how I was recently watching a couple on HGTV “Beach Front Bargain Hunt,” and how they were buying a condo in Virginia Beach and for their sake I hope Virginia Beach had changed. I told her on my senior trip in High School, we took a bus to Virginia Beach. Here we were kids from NYC on a vacation having a good time. Like Venice Beach where there are shops to buy souvenirs, we entered several local shops and were scrutinized, made to feel unwelcome, and were told to our faces we were thieves. I have been working since I was 14 years old, and like many of my class mates we also had jobs through the school working in lower Manhattan and at businesses on Wall Street – we had plenty of spending money. We walked into maybe the third store and were greeted unkindly and at that point we walked out and tipped some displays over and walked out, then we went on to enjoy the beach. We were insulted as a group because assumptions were made, because we were Black youth. I told her on that same trip the group had gotten food to eat at the hotel and I didn’t want what they had – I had seen a Wendy’s or something just two short blocks from our hotel and I made the mistake of walking alone. I walked the first block and in the middle of the second block was a blue pick-up truck with three very blonde teen aged White males. I felt apprehensive because they were males and I was a female walking alone – but I knew I only had half a block to go – but I was in my mind creating an exit route just in case. Those guys started with pick-up lines that went from “hey baby” to “nigga bitch,” just because I did not accept their advances. For all I knew they could have tossed me in the back of the truck and I would have disappeared into thin air. I kept it moving. For the sake of this couple on HGTV I sincerely hope things have changed cause as an adult you could not pay me to go to Virginia Beach.
All she could say was wow. I also told her the average White person also does not consider the Black experience. If you submit to any ideology other than Martin Luther King where Civil Rights is concerned, it is deemed unacceptable. I told her all of the backlash that Beyonce’ received because of her dancers outfits at the Super Bowl were perceived to be like the Black Panthers. There are those of us that do not have a problem with the organization – the personal relationships we have with friends and family range in ideology from Martin to Malcolm. So to now call the Black Panthers Terrorists in 2016 is debatable – because for some Black people you are talking about our parents or our uncles and aunts that had to make a choice about how to be and feel more protected in their Black skin in the United States of America during the 1960’s. And I reminded my friend that it has only been about 40-50 years that as a nation, America has had any true freedom for Black people. And that 40-50 years is in my lifetime, and my mother is still alive, and my grandmother is still alive, and my great-grandmother was alive until 2012. So I have 3 generations of family folklore of women that grew with this country as African, Black American Women, as the country has tried to define Black people. So to me yes Black Lives Matter and the relationship that Police Officers have had with Black People in the United States of America over the four generations of women in my family that have lived in this country during the same amount of time has been abysmal. As a country the better we are able to show that through interaction with each other that Black Lives Matter, the better all people in this country will be.
She thanked me, because according to her that she truly did not know, and now that she has a better understanding, she can move forward with that understanding. Then we got onto lighter things, work, kids, and travel – namely when am I coming to see her and her kids – it is on my list of things to do!!
Walking in the shoes of another human being and their experiences is not easy to do. Try it sometime, and not Halloween in a costume, talk to a real person, about their life and learn something about yourself and who you intend to be with your life. That is how we grow humanity, by being able to see each other’s humanity.
FridayJones1 on Twitter