Black Lives Matter To This Older Whiter Woman
If this week’s horrific news doesn’t depress, upset, anger, and concern you, you might want to get yourself checked out to see if you are human.
You are likely familiar with the quote from Martin Niemöller, an outspoken foe of Hitler about not speaking out as “they” (the Nazis) came for each group of people because the speaker was not one of them. The quote has many versions referencing lots of different groups of people but they end the same – with the lesson “then they came for me” and there was no one to speak out.
I thought about that quote this morning as I read the news about the police shooting from Dallas. I thought, “See this is what happens when you only speak out when your group is being persecuted.”
The Black Lives Matter movement isn’t about me, I suppose. I’m a middle-aged white woman. (That is if middle-aged is 63.) But then again, isn’t it about me? Consider this, those of you who find the Black Lives Matter moniker threatening – isn’t it about you too? Some people found the birth of that name offensive, as if the intention was to say Black lives mattered more than others. That reaction gave way to “Blue Lives Matter,” referring to cops and “All Lives Matter” referring, I suppose to…well… all lives, none being more important than any others. But those miss the point of Black Lives Matter.
We have been turning our collective American backs to Black lives throughout our history, from slavery to denying voting rights, to denying civil rights to racial profiling to poverty to mass incarcerations to lack of decent jobs and education for the disenfranchised. And, haven’t we all paid the price for doing exactly that?
How is it that you don’t see Black Lives Matter as being about you and your life, no matter what color you show to the world? These deaths of courageous police officers and non-threatening civilians have one thing in common. They could have been prevented. We have long paid little attention to the underlying cause – racism run rampant. And why has it run rampant? Because we allowed it to and have been allowing it to for way too long. Additionally, our institutions, like the police, have been remiss in addressing the issue.
Our police are undervalued, undertrained and underpaid. I’ve never understood why those brave men and women who put their lives on the line every day to protect us are treated so poorly. I doubt that most police officers are racist. I even doubt that the officers involved in this week’s shooting were out there seeking to kill black men, yet that is what happened.
Because we don’t value the police enough to train them properly. Do officers know how to accurately identify a perpetrator who is truly threatening? Do they know how to shoot or disarm that person without killing him? It doesn’t seem as though we’ve taught them proper procedure and we look the other way when racist fears cause them to make deadly choices.
Because we haven’t valued Black lives enough to care when they are carelessly abused or killed by the cops. Does that justify this week’s shooting of police officers in Dallas? Absolutely not. But it does indicate how dangerous our obfuscation of the Black Lives Matter movement is. They demand freedom and justice for all black lives and ultimately that will lift every one of us.
I may be older and whiter than other people but I have a grandson who is also white. His life matters, no more or less than any other. He has a right to grow up in a country that doesn’t tolerate hate anymore.
So, of course all lives matter and the dangerous rhetoric in this year’s election does too. So do the gun control law reforms we so desperately need. But if we don’t as a nation start now by caring about the lives currently treated most carelessly– and those are Black Lives–then we are all to blame, regardless of our color. The blood is not black or white, it’s red and it’s on all of our hands. #BlackLivesMatter – it’s about you.