Just now, Oak found my unfinished poster from the last LSURJ meeting (Louisville Showing Up for Racial Justice) and asked to finish it. "Look, Mom! 'Black Lives Matter' - me want to color green and red!" I couldn't believe he remembered me telling him what it was going to say WEEKS ago. He also remembers when we walked through downtown Louisville chanting the mantra several months ago. It's a phrase that already carries meaning for him because he sees that it carries meaning for people he cares about.
He added the colors, I added the final word. I'll hang up our collaboration somewhere others will see it, too. Why is this SO IMPORTANT to me?
I wholeheartedly support the BLM movement because my sons - ALL our children - will not inherit a nation in which all people are truly free. In fact, most people are NOT free. Since the beginning, the United States' economic and political schema has been dependent on systemic subjugation of First Nation peoples, Black persons, women, poor folk, etc. (I am constantly learning of new modes of oppression employed in my country). The U.S. is founded in racism. This is not debatable - it is a fact. The refrain of oppressed peoples in this country has been, for centuries, "America was never America to me," as the poet Langston Hughes once wrote.
Today, these histories of prejudice remain deeply rooted in our psyches as white people. Because we have been so profoundly conditioned by these histories, false narratives, and structures that serve to continue and further racism and oppression, we aren't even AWARE that we are prejudiced. In all real senses of the word, I am racist. Again: I AM RACIST. I can't help but be racist as a white person in this country. Since before I can remember, I have been internalizing imagery of thuggish black men, stereotyped native people, passive women, mocked queer folk, and ignorant poor people. We are swimming in these lies. It has taken years of listening and learning to realize the racist tendencies within me and to admit that they exist, even though I don't want them to.
The trick is to recognize I cannot immediately, or perhaps ever, rid myself of these internalized judgments...just like, no matter how hard I try, I may never be able to stop myself from feeling angry. What I CAN control is how I respond. I can notice with honesty what arises in me. I can listen more intentionally to people who I don't often hear from. I can admit when I'm wrong, blind, or ignorant. I can let myself be led by people who have been silenced for generations. I can start to see, think and talk about, and eventually move in the world differently. I can set my own mind-heart-soul free, little by little.
However, even as a white, middle class, cisgender, queer/bisexual, mostly femme-presenting woman, I am not free until my black siblings are no longer oppressed. My liberation is bound to everyone else's. Until every last human is respected, cared-for, and upheld, I and all others will be bound.
I feel uncomfortable putting these basic, boiled-down thoughts out there. It isn't because I am afraid that I'll be opposed; it's because I know how very much I have to learn. I know my language isn't totally correct. I left out sooo much. I surely messed something up badly. I know this is a childlike sketch of the journey I'm on. But this is a small piece to hopefully open a door of understanding for those who don't know why I am always saying, with passion, "Black Lives Matter." I am saying it because my own life depends on it, and so does yours, whoever you are. I will continue to learn so that I am more and more prepared to answer my children the day they ask, "Why do we say 'Black Lives Matter'?"
Want to learn more? Join me. Come to a SURJ meeting. Visit BLM's website. Read a book (I have some suggestions). Start talking to white people and listening to people of color. Let's connect. Let's grow together. Let's work toward our collective freedom.