By Narcissa Lyons
This is the second of a two part article, though at the writing of part one (see The Issue of Life ) I did not realize it would have a follow up . I write this today because I was reminded by a friend about a week ago of how I have shifted on my approach to the “Black Lives Matter” statement. My position on the movement itself has never changed. I believe in the non-violent version of it strongly, sympathize with the fact that black people have lived through the unthinkable and since the days of slavery have still been getting a very raw deal. Even though racism is far better than it was, say, in 1950, it is possibly worse now than it was in, say, 1995.
That could easily be wrong. I am going by the constant onslaught of material telling me how bad racial relations are, not with statistics and actual interviews with those in or out of the theoretical trenches. Maybe I am too rosy eyed, but I believe we wouldn’t look too bad, or at least less primitive than our society is portrayed. Far from perfect, but not slit-your-wrists despicable. Like all news terrible, negative, disgusting, the media sends it out to us surrounded in fireworks, jewels and sirens, any grabbing imagery that elicits horrified gasps from the reader/watcher. Everything else is muted, back paged, stated in a softer and quicker cadence on the news. Good news is a gaping yawn. You can almost see the ho hum in the reporters’ eyes as they quietly drone it out. So I don’t actually know that racism is worse now than it was, but if in fact it is worse, the perpetuation of glamorized violence on both sides of the race battle by the media is at fault. The vast majority of white people, indignant at being called racists when so many believe things are starting to calm down, will be resentful and express the thought that the movement is exaggerated, that no one points out how many white people are unjustly killed, that no matter how unjust a killing, the slaying of men in uniform is never justified. The black population, seeing what seems to be ever increasing bias towards people of color, more senseless shootings, gets angrier and more likely to erupt. The fire burns ever brighter with this frenzied kindling. The media incites, and then has even more material to write about, racing each other to the scene of mayhem they helped conjure up, and then hypocritically pretend they are dismayed.
That media explanation was actually besides my main point, but they piss me off. What I had a problem with in the beginning of the movement was the statement behind it: “Black Lives Matter”. Actually, I’ll rephrase that. I had an issue with what it implied, and I considered it a very bad way to convey what is an important message because it could (and resoundingly did) promote an anti-Black Lives Matter feeling for what ends up being a simple and unfortunate reason, but one that should have been addressed from the very beginning. I inferred with that statement, and there are many who still do, that the accent was on the word “black” as in BLACK lives matter. No single representative of the movement or cause ever said otherwise or said anything at all for that matter, so it is no wonder that many of us heard it that way. And then we were like, well of course black lives matter, but shit, what about the rest of us? Don’t we matter? And so it began. It’s only three words, but if the wrong word is stressed, the wrong assumption will be made by many. I realized about 8 months ago that what is meant is Black Lives MATTER. It was like a smack in the face, the sudden realization. “Oh”, I am pretty sure I said out loud. That’s another thing altogether, is not confrontational, is telling us “You know what? You cannot treat us like this, cannot randomly for no reason pull us over, question even the way we walk down the street, kill us when we are not armed—our lives matter – just like everyone else who you are not persecuting. Why would you treat us any differently?”
Am I saying that “matter” should have been underlined or all CAPS? Well paint me the child, but yes and yes and YES. In something as dynamite sensitive as this issue, as these anthem words, they need to be understood by everyone, not just the marchers, movement leaders and followers, but every single soul because that could have made it (still can) a much more far reaching and successful cause. There would have been no anti-movement because there would never have been the misunderstanding that black people only care about themselves, that all others have had their turn, can be brushed aside, whatever the hell people like me assumed with BLACK lives matter.
This is my call to those still opposed to the Black Lives Matter campaign to take a look again at what is trying to be achieved, and to rethink the line. It’s a very old message, the need of which to repeat is saddening, maddening–the pure, simple, understandable and too long ungranted wish for equality. Not just equality in law, paperwork, PC discussions, but in fact. To walk down the street or drive in one’s own car without being a natural suspect–not just to authorities but everyone, even fellow African Americans at times. I don’t know that we can ever really get there–and racism comes from both sides, but a step in the right direction is the acknowledgement by the non black population that things are rather fucked up and we all need to work together to fix it. This does not get done by anti-Black Lives Matter protests or idiotic rhetoric bitching about the fact that the news isn’t broadcasting enough when innocent white people are shot down. As I pointed out, the media are not our friends, and in fact serve to divide us, set us firmly against any kind of relationship that is harmonious.
The sanctity of human life is a given, and yes all of our lives matter, but the government and authorities, the work force, the masses of the rest of us need to know that all is comprised of American Indian, Asian, Black, Indian, White, and so on and so forth, and then all the beautiful bundles that are born as mixtures of this color palette. If real equality is reached, then all of us get what most of us want – a more generous portion of peace, and the deserved comfort we’ll feel in who we have become.