If I were sitting in a coffee shop, and someone came and sat at my table and said this to me – “Black Lives Matter” – I’m pretty sure what would fall from my lips, without thinking about it, would be one of these statements: Yes. Of course. Of course they do. No kidding. No shit. Duh.
It’s a given. If I didn’t know why it was being said I’d figure that the person making the statement, the black person, probably knew why it was important to make it more than my pale self. One thing I do know – hearing it wouldn’t make me angry.
But it has obviously made a lot of people angry in the country, and if you watch the news and read the news and look at posts on social media, etc., etc., etc., it clear that it’s made a lot of people really, really angry. And really angry, to be clear and factual, long before the senseless, horrifying murders of the policemen in Dallas and Baton Rouge this last week. Long before that.
The question, or a question, then, is what is it about those three words that make so many people, most of them Caucasian, so frazzled and discombobulated and flat out pissed?
What if we had never heard those three words, had that statement burned into our collective mind, but instead, on the news and on social media, began hearing people say this – Italian Lives Matter? Would the response have been the same? Would yours? Or would it have been one of mine listed above? — No shit. How about Japanese Lives Matter? Especially remembering the earthquake and the tsunami and the terrible, terrible loss of life. Do Japanese Lives Matter?
I’m from Massachusetts, originally, so how about Irish Lives Matter? Or Portuguese Lives Matter? Would those make you pissed?
Now I could throw out there that Syrian Lives Matter, and seeing on the aforementioned news/internet the heartbreaking tragedy of war and trauma and homelessness I think you’d probably agree, even if it feels a tiny bit weirder, that, yeah, Syrian Lives Matter.
But Black Lives Matter? Somehow that’s been something else, the response to it. It has initially and loudly generated this response – All Lives Matter. As if the two statements don’t coexist. Donald Trump has been a big cheerleader for All Lives Matter. Of course Mr. Trump said a few months back that if he had his way he would kill the families of terrorists. The wives and grandparents and kids. I guess it’s All Lives Matter usually. Pretty much all the time. Mostly.
It hasn’t always been this reactive/angry way. George Harrison said the Lives of Bangladesh Mattered. Willie Nelson and Neil Young said Farmer’s Lives Mattered. Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie and lots of others said that African Kids Mattered, remember www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9BNoNFKCBI and no one yelled out All Kids Matter! Different peoples needed help to bring their lives back to an even playing field, just that, no better no worse, and no one got angry about it. People, in fact, asked “What can I do?”
Who knows what it’s like to turn on the aforementioned news, week after week, and watch someone of your color die in a most distressing way, in a way that seems entirely wrong, not real, not the same. If the “Don’t taze me, Bro” goof at the Florida University had been black, would that have played out the same? In an isolated part of the campus? At night? Just think about South Carolina. Dylann Roof, murderer of nine Charleston Church goers, American citizens, was taken into custody with pretty much kid gloves. Tim Scott, one of two Republican South Carolina United States Senators, a black man, described being stopped while driving to the US Senate seven different times.
“I have felt the anger, the frustration, the sadness and the humiliation that comes with feeling like you’re being targeted for nothing more than just being yourself,” Scott said in a powerful floor speech reflecting upon the killings of police and by police that have shaken the nation. He implored colleagues to “recognize that just because you do not feel the pain, the anguish of another … does not mean it does not exist.”
Or as Bono said, in the Bob Geldof Christmas song, “Tonight thank God it’s them instead of you.”
Do people of this country have a right to talk about their experience of day to day life, and death, in this country? You’re damn right they do. I believe that’s made pretty clear in the First Amendment.
And to my white Caucasian Honkey sisters and brothers. Black Lives Matter? — The guy up there in the picture started it.