For What It’s Worth

For the past two days, I’ve been trying to think of something to say that isn’t being said better already by somebody else, and what occurs to me is this. Right now and for the next two months, every political party in the US is going to be falling over itself to convince people of color to help them win the election. The so-called “black vote” is one of the holiest of holy grails in the American electoral process. But why should black Americans who aren’t already invested go out of their way to prop up and participate in a system that offers them no protection and has in fact defined them generally and institutionally as a threat?

Regardless of the details of any specific incident (and the undeniable humanity, bravery, and intelligence of most police officers as individual men and women) we can no longer pretend we don’t know one single, horrifying fact: that it has become an accepted truism within the official institutions of this country that black men are inherently dangerous. That the mere presence of a black man even with his hands up is a threat so immediate and so dire it justifies the use of deadly force. That isn’t just racism, folks. That’s genocide. As a people, we have to acknowledge it, and we have to fix it.

And yes, that starts with all of us individual white folks reaching out in empathy and friendship, but the warm fuzzy feelings aren’t enough, not any more. We have to share in the outrage and demand change. We have to risk our own comfort to join the fight for justice. We have to stop waiting for Dr. King to rise from the grave and take selfies with us so we can prove how liberal we are and instead become one nation united in grief and rage and the hope for something better. We have to stand beside our brothers and sisters of color and echo their voices as they shout, “No more!”

Why #BlackLivesMatter Matters – one more white chick perspective

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.