Thursday, December 31, 2015

The "All Lives Matter" debate

I am still amazed by how quickly the words "black lives matter" seem to make situations so charged so quickly.  Inevitably someone jumps in and says "ALL lives matter," like the phrase is saying that they don't.

Inevitably, they are white people who say this.  Inevitably, things get hot.  I am white, but I am outraged by the way white privilege is so entrenched that people are flat out unable and unwilling to see what we are trying to say.

We are not saying that other lives don't matter. We are saying that the circumstances and culture of our society  does not value black lives.  That our strong black men are at risk.  That our young black children playing in parks are not safe.  That our black daughters and sisters are dying when they are stopped for traffic violations.  Is that likely to happen to me?  A middle aged white woman?  Nope.  Because I have white privilege.  Whether I want it. Whether I acknowledge its existence.  It is there.  And I reap the benefits in my day to day life.

I wait up when my son is at work.  Sometimes he walks the quarter mile from the restaurant where he is employed.  It is late when the oyster bar closes.  He is a strong handsome black man walking through town in the dark, after midnight.  You bet I wait up.

I made sure every water pistol or air soft gun in our house is fluorescent yellow green or orange. In no way can they even remotely look real or I throw them out.  Would I do that if my kids were white like me?  I don't know for sure, but I doubt it.

I worry that my teen will do something silly with his friends--some of whom are white--and that they will run off and leave him in a situation where he is more at risk than they are. Teens sometimes do stupid things. I was a teen and I did too.  But I didn't die because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

2015 was filled with so many profound examples of how racism and white privilege are very alive and well in our country.  It is my hope and prayer that 2016 brings opportunities for change.  I hope it begins with my white friends accepting white privilege and using it for change.  Instead of railing that it doesn't exist, lets use our voices. Let us speak out with our black friends, neighbors and family and work together for safety, for equality, and for the sanctity of life.

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