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Don’t Get Distracted – Black Lives Matter

This isn’t my usual blog post.  It took me a while to write it and I probably still haven’t found the right words. I have used a lot of words this past couple of weeks like sad, drained, hurt, angry but I never used the word shocked.  Within 30 days of each other a black man got shot dead while jogging (Ahmaud Arbery), a black woman was shot dead while sleeping (Breona Taylor), and George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer.

But I was never shocked.

Suspicious deaths of blacks at the hands of police have been in the news for years. Floyd’s death wasn’t even the first to be seen on video. Rarely is a policeman held accountable for one of these deaths. Colin Kaepernick conducted a peaceful protest to bring light to this problem and it led to him losing his career and being fiercely criticized.

Some Americans are waking up but there are those who would rather focus on anything else rather than acknowledge that systematic racism is still strong and thriving in our society.

So, let’s talk about the distractions:

All Live Matters – Saying “Black Lives Matter” isn’t equivalent to saying other lives don’t, but rather that Black lives should matter as much as white lives.

Saying “All Lives Matter” redirects the attention from black lives, who are the ones in peril.   Think of it this way: If you get into a car crash and one person has a serious head injury but the others have a few bumps and bruises, the person whose life is at risk gets first priority when it comes to medical care. That doesn’t mean paramedics won’t help the rest of the passengers, but that triage places the direst situation first in line.

At its most basic level ”Black Lives Matter,” calls for a shift in the statistics that black people are twice as likely to be killed by a police officer while unarmed, compared to a white individual.

Looting – They do exist.  I don’t agree with the looting.  Many of these people are not directly connected to the protests but are using the crowds as cover to steal merchandise.

It is important to note that those who participate in looting during the night rarely overlap with those who march peacefully as protestors during the day.

We cannot confuse these people with those who are trying to peacefully enact change and raise awareness. The actions of looters have corrupted the message of those who are demonstrating without violence, and we must recognize that this should not serve as an excuse to stop listening to the pleas of the vast majority.

Rioting – No reasonable person condones violence or arson, even when we understand the emotions. The point is not that rioting is justified; it’s that if we block out the noise and really listen, we might hear what those doing the rioting are trying to tell us.

I heard a reporter ask a young man if he was among the demonstrators peacefully protesting earlier in the day, he dismissed the idea.

“Protesting peacefully? We did that in the ‘60s. That didn’t get us nowhere.”

This is what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had to say about rioting in his “The Other America” speech:

“…I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.”

The way to stop citizens from rioting is to acknowledge and fix the conditions that they are rioting against.

Black on Black Crime – The notion that one race committing crimes against others of that same race is a phenomenon unique to the black community is, itself, a myth.  While it is true that the overwhelming number of black people who are murdered in the United States are killed by other black people, it’s also true, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, 82% of white American homicide victims were killed by other white people.

But has anyone heard anyone talk about the horrific problem of “white on white” crime? What the statistics show is that people are most likely to be murdered by those who they live next to and know.

I would further point out that when black people are violent against each other, it results in jail time. However, oftentimes when police are violent against black people, there is no jail time and remember that is what all this unrest is about.

So again, don’t get distracted.

What can you do?

The first step to combating racism in our society is listening and seeking to understand, no matter who you are. It hurts to hear that you might hold prejudice, especially if you consider yourself an open-minded person. But instead of getting defensive or jumping in to explain your own perspective immediately, listen to other points of view including those of Black change-makers, elected officials, celebrities, friends, and coworkers.

Secondly, push back on prejudice in your own social circles, even if it requires awkward conversations. And educate yourself on your own inherent bias, even if you don’t think you hold any.

We can all work together to dismantle the racial bias that underlies virtually every aspect of our country and world. It’s hard work. It’s uncomfortable. But nothing worth doing is easy. There’s nothing more important than creating a world in which our children don’t have to be afraid to walk through an unfamiliar neighborhood, to go birdwatching, to buy a bag of Skittles, to browse in a high-end store, or even ask a police officer for help, no matter the color of their skin.

If you have any feedback, comments, thoughts, or ideas – feel free to reply and share.

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