My ancestors were the children of slaves. They grew up during a time of fear. They inherited a legacy of sayings and warnings about what you must and must not do if you were black. This was for their own protection, because people in the South, even as far West as Texas, could still get lynched for speaking out of turn.
My parents grew up during the civil rights movement. My father was in protests, and he was arrested and questioned about whether those out of town activists like Martin Luther King were riling up the good local black boys. My mother sat at home in fear that he might be killed before he returned home.
But I grew up in a progressive time. The seventies was a time of integration and equality. Things weren’t equal yet, but in many ways, they were becoming more equal. Billie Jean King beat John McEnroe after all, and there were more black people on TV. Progress existed, and the US bicentennial showed us that we had come a long way in 200 years. African Americans were breaking barriers and moving out into places where they had never been before. It was an optimistic time. Everyone knew that things could only get better.
But now in a time when we have our first biracial president it seems that the old racism is rearing it’s ugly head in new and terrible forms. I can hardly look on facebook without seeing another brutal killing of a black person by a white policeman. But the thing that makes it most horrifying, is the number of people who say that their deaths are a good thing!
BLACK LIVES MATTER. It is a statement that seems almost as simple as the civil rights slogan I AM A MAN used in 1968 at the Memphis, Tennessee Sanitation strike, and yet it is rife with controversy.
I must confess that my first reaction on hearing it was to ask, don’t all lives matter? But when I realized why the statement was used, I understood that to simply change it is to remove the strength of the statement.
By stating a simple truth, it begs you to question it, and then to ask yourself why you had to question it in the first place. Making a simple statement such as WOMEN AND MEN ARE EQUAL or GAY MARRIAGE IS SIMPLY MARRIAGE spurs you to either agree with the statement or disagree. Either way, you have to take a stand.
Unfortunately for America, far too many people are taking a stand against BLACK LIVES MATTER to the point that I have seen pictures of signs vandalized to say things such as BLACK LIVES MATTER…LESS.
I think that very succinctly illuminates the state of racism in this country. Far too many people would rather use the semantic argument that ALL LIVES MATTER is a more fair statement, or even go so far as to say COP LIVES MATTER is an equivalent or even superior statement to circulate.
Some people seem to see the slogan as an attack on white culture and their response is to fanatically support the police to the point that they support legislation to make policemen completely unaccountable to the law for their actions. This divide is such that some people consider that if a white person does not support the police over black lives, then they are being disloyal to their race.
When I look online, I see a mounting body of evidence to show that Black people of both sexes and all ages are undergoing systematic violence at the hands of people who should be our protectors and most non-black people just don’t care.
Some people, however, do care. They like it this way. Coverage of blacks being abused and killed by police is at once a warning to blacks to keep in their place, and a powerful recruiting tool for disaffected white youth to join the police force so that they too can hurt and kill blacks with impunity.
These images show the cracks in the facade of racial progress in America. They show that life is not fair for all Americans, and that many institutions are not as egalitarian as they claim to be.
I grew up being taught that we all shared an American dream. A dream where our race and national origin didn’t matter. A dream that said that “ALL PEOPLE ARE CREATED EQUAL.”
What happened to that dream?
As for me, I suppose that I should go on doing my part to counter prejudice where I see it until the response for most Americans to the slogan BLACK LIVES MATTER is simply “Of course, that’s obvious!”