A brief message for all my fellow white folks who have a problem with #BlackLivesMatter. I get it; white guilt is exhausting, and life is hard for everybody. But right now, at this moment, we Americans live in a country where a serious contender for the highest office in the country believes that Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 US 393 (1857) is “still the law of the land.” For anyone who’s forgotten their high school civics, that means in Huckabee’s mind, our federal government operates on the assumption that African-Americans can’t really be Americans at all because they aren’t really human beings. He’s running for President of a United States where the only real citizens are white. (Dred Scott doesn’t address races that were never slaves, but considering the Republican stance on immigration, I don’t think that’s much of a stretch.)
You know what scares me the most about this? Huckabee knows exactly how black Americans will react to this (just like he knows exactly how LGBT Americans will react to his support of that idiot in Kentucky). But he’s betting his considerable campaign coffers that enough non-black (and non-LGBT) Americans will agree with him to get him elected anyway. Still think racism is an outdated, overworked issue that we need to let go?
Even if you think guys like Huckabee and Trump are clowns with no power (bless your heart), how about this? Here’s an entirely non-political example perpetrated not by an idiot whisperer but by a non-emotional, market-driven entity that serves a community that is as likely to be open-minded in its outlook as any in the country. Yesterday I was searching for cover art for a new romance which features an African-American heroine. I typed “beautiful young black woman portrait” into the search box of a popular stock art site that has no political agenda whatsoever. And for every portrait of an actual woman of color that came back in the results, I got at least five photos of white women wearing black clothes. (And lest you think I think of myself as above the argument, yeah, I just realized I found it necessary to narrow my search with the word “black” instead of just typing “beautiful young woman portrait” – this ain’t my first rodeo; I know what I have to type to find what I want; the problem I’m pointing out has had an effect on me and my outlook, too, and that also stinks.) And yes, I know the search engine picked up “black” as a keyword, not a racial concept; that’s why I got all those white girls in little black dresses. But five to one? If the photos available were in any way reflective of reality, even a search for all beautiful young women shouldn’t have come back five to one white to black. Obviously this site and its search engine isn’t consciously racist; it merely reflects the market as we, the artistic community using stock photos, define it. In other words, it’s not them; it’s us.
So yes, ALL lives matter. I don’t think anybody participating in the #BlackLivesMatter movement means to dispute that any more than the people who got upset about Cecil the Lion meant they want all dogs to die. The point is not that ONLY black lives matter or that black lives matter MOST. It’s that black lives matter ALSO. And if you think this is a message that this whole country doesn’t need, you’re not paying attention.
White people of good will can’t stop fighting racism just because we’re sick of worrying about it. If we do, we’re not people of good will at all. Because millions of our fellow Americans—our fellow humans—don’t have that luxury of choice. Racism for them is an evil they can neither escape nor control that affects every aspect of every minute of their lives. It is an evil that is destroying our nation, and its greatest power is our desire to pretend it isn’t there. If we feel like we can’t help, the least we can do is hush and get out of the way.