In my last post, I touched briefly on the statues. I made a point about supporting taking down statues in an official capacity, and NOT vandalizing or taking down statues by force.*
And I’m retracting that statement. To sum up why, here’s a meme:
Revolutions are not pretty. They don’t work how YOU want them to (you know, quietly, without rocking the boat, so you can live YOUR life in peace without any threat to your sense of normalcy—just like how many have idealized how MLK worked civil rights protests. A nice, non-disruptive little peaceful protest.)**
Let’s look at the two major opposing ideologies at play here. (Yay, culture war…) On one hand, you have what are largely “liberals/Democrats” advocating for equality, supporting BLM (and let’s be real, there is confusion between the appropriation of #BlackLivesMatter and the actual organization Black Lives Matter). However, at its core the advocacy is predicated on the fact that the American Dream is not attainable for everyone in the same capacity, with some people placed at extreme disadvantage.
The biggest pushback and “bullshit” call/ response to these ideas largely stem primarily from those that have “come up” in some respect, (this varies widely) or those that were simply born “up” (again, loose definition). They’re the other hand, largely “conservatives/Republicans,” who in some capacity have succeeded in the American Dream (or believe they will) and have done it through varying degrees of hard work. They’ve earned their slice of the pie, and maintain that if anyone works hard enough they too can make it. “If I did it, so can you.” “The only thing holding you back is YOURSELF.”
I understand. Some people have had extreme disadvantages, and overcome. They sacrifice time, love, family. They carve their slice, however small it might be, and it is THEIRS, and no one will take it from them. Their work, sacrifice, and in some cases, luck, are proof positive anyone can pick themselves up by the bootstraps. And those sacrifices should never be diminished, never. That is blood and sweat and tears that stain the life thrust upon us. That is sink or swim, and choosing to swim. But I ask, would you want everyone to walk that same path? Your friends, your family, your children? Why is this the right of passage?
I too work hard. I sacrifice my time, my family, to make ends meet and attain some semblance of financial security. It’s rarely easy, rarely fun, and often scary trying to make ends meet. But I recognize I exist on a spectrum. Many others have worked much less than I to afford much more security. Many have worked much harder than I for much less. And all the in-betweens.
See, just because ME or YOU or some people YOU know are exceptions to the rule doesn’t mean the rule doesn’t exist. There are many people out their screaming things aren’t fair, haven’t been fair for centuries, here in a place where everything is supposed to be. What to do? Discredit them? Disregard them entirely because they aren’t unhappy in a way which suits normalcy, or is non-threatening to a narrow worldview, or because other people have it rough too? We’re talking about more than working hard, now. We’re talking about a centuries long history of violence and hate and oppression, each crime compounding the others.
Maybe there’s been too much time gone by without addressing enough substance, too many excuses not to listen. Now everyone is being forced to hear. Maybe the debt collector has come, and though it’s “inconvenient” and “uncomfortable” for many, it’s time to pay up.
Have you ever been worried someone will come to your house dressed like a ghost, drag you kicking and screaming while your family watches in horror as you’re murdered in front of them, because of the color of your skin?
Oh wait, but all that was fixed, right? Redlining (google this if you don’t “believe” in systemic racism) was fixed, right? Slavery ended a long time ago, right? Desegregation already happened, right? White people get shot by cops too, right? The Mississippi flag shouldn’t bother anyone because the confederacy was in the past, right? (What is a flag, but a representation of a supported system of governance?)
George Floyd was arrested because he was using a counterfeit bill, right?***
If you think this way, I’ve got news: it’s not about YOU.
If you haven’t lived an experience, you can’t speak to it. You can speculate. You can learn, and maybe compare aspects. You don’t get to tell other people what to think and feel, or how they should behave, or the “good” ways they should misbehave.
“But I know black people that don’t believe in systemic racism. I known black people that don’t support any of this. I even saw some interviews.”
Good. Because not all “black people” are the same generalization some want them to be. They’re individuals with their own beliefs and opinions. Did every American support the American Revolution? (Spoiler alert: the answer is no.) You can’t use an opinion or anecdote that you, or a group of people that think exactly like you, have to discredit an entire movement made up of other people that challenge what you like to think.
The fact remains: People scream for justice, and they should be heard. If those voices are shut down and muffled because no one likes what they have to say, or thinks they aren’t worth listening to then two things happen: one is that the voices screaming turn to rage and violence. The second is that this country becomes no longer the land of opportunity for all, but the land of opportunity for some.
In regards to dismissing systemic racism because crime and poverty are not the system’s fault, but the fault of problems that start in the home, (a frequently heard argument) keep in mind these things are not mutually exclusive. How does one fix these problems in the home? Access to good education is a great solution. But that’s a “system” so…
Look, we all know “things are rough all over.” We’ve all got our tragedies and trials. But, according to our constitution, everyone deserves a fair shake. And if some people aren’t getting it, the least that can be done is hear them out. If you don’t believe they should be heard, because “they” don’t deserve it or “they” sabotage themselves or “their” movement is too messy, well, who are YOU to grab the gavel and play judge?
Think if it this way: there is a wrong side of history. Things we take for granted now, like women’s suffrage, desegregation, or our independence, these are things that people—good, seemingly reasonable people—opposed at one point. These people were not villains (at least, not all of them). As much as we love good vs evil, that’s an incredibly reductive worldview.
Women voting? “Too radical. Their place is in the home, they don’t need a public life.”
Desegregation? “Listen, I like black people, really I do. I have a lot of black friends, but they can’t share our schools and bathrooms.”
The American Revolution? “We can’t fight an empire, that’s suicide.”
When all’s said and done, where will you land? Will you be one of the “good people” that opposed justice because it’s just a little too crazy, because it threatens your worldview and makes you THINK about other people that don’t operate within your immediate sphere of existence?
If a revolution comes, it’s coming regardless of what you think. It won’t be about you. Statues crumble. Monuments are destroyed. Countries change. Ideologies shift. In the end, time leaves every single one of us behind. During the interim, let’s make it a life worth living for all, not just some. Let’s make it a life where you are not defined by the sacrifice you make to the money machine, or the backs you step on to get to the top, or the disadvantages you face.
If you don’t agree, I can only hope you’ll consider these words. For the record, I love this country. I’m afforded the opportunity to express my opinion, and the opportunity to many amazing rights as a citizen of America. I want everyone to experience those opportunities, those rights.
I’ll leave you with this: anthropologist Margaret Mead said the first sign of a civilized culture was a 15,000 year old broken femur bone found at an archaeological site. It takes six weeks of rest for a broken femur to heal without modern medicine. In the animal kingdom, if you break a bone, you die. A healed femur indicates someone helped the fallen, treated the wound, carried the person to safety, and cared for them until they healed, rather than abandoning them to save their own life. That’s civilization.
Until next time, be good.
“All through the day
I me mine I me mine I me mine”—The Beatles
*Of course, some statues are coming down or being defaced that don’t fit the narrative. Other groups have piggybacked on BLM, with different, more anarchistic agendas. Still others have allegedly infiltrated the movement, in some cases fueling riots or vandalizing statues in order to undermine BLM. You be the judge here.
**Civil rights protest photos:
***Let’s flip this. Can you imagine the outrage if a group of black cops had killed a white man in the same way George Floyd was killed—even if that white man was using a counterfeit bill? Imagine the backlash! Imagine what some white people would be doing to “get back”.