Louisville, Kentucky is sporting over 70 days of continuous protests over the murder of Breonna Taylor, and there doesn’t appear to be any signs of them stopping as long as our city, state, and/or country fails to hold the police officers responsible for the grizzly atrocities they partook in. It’s terrifying and tragic. We, who love our city, stand in opposition to an oppressive superstructure with raised fists and voices asking for one thing: don’t kill people. Specifically, don’t intentionally predate and kill members of particularly sensitive and systematically under advantaged demographics. In short, black lives matter.
I’m white, and I think it would be ironically unjust to speak on this topic in this post with the same longevity that I usually do. Not because this cause is unimportant, but because white noise, the voices (even the woke voices) of privileged demographics, and latent cultural biases that I am not even aware of will never be able to paint the exact picture of the suffering of African American communities in the US. I do think I have some small responsibility to at least use my platform to address this topic, but I would encourage you to read the literature of writers of color more than anything.
Readers of Transient Talk would probably dove tail with the thoughts of Maya Angelou, if I had to make a recommendation.
Only until recently, I tried to take the middle road on matters of modern day civil rights issues (turns out, “modern day” civil rights issues are the same civil rights issues since the dawn of man. Funny how that works). I was never quite an “all lives matter” kind of person, but I would typically just keep my mouth shut. If I said anything at all it would be something like, “Well, this is a really complicated situation that doesn’t have one clear answer and not one clear bad guy. Both sides have problems.” Ew. I look back at that, noticing that I was trying to do my best, and have to acknowledge that my best just wasn’t in any way good enough. I wasn’t listening because I was comfortable, and I wasn’t speaking because I was scared someone would call me out on how little I actually cared.
My mind was radically changed after attending one of Louisville’s first BLM protests. It was late, nearly midnight. I didn’t even realize I was about to walk into a blockade before I and some others around me get pelted with rubber bullets and choked by gas. Immediately, red hot terror flooded into my brain as my vision was fogged and my lungs were filled with millions of tiny, chemically laced needles. I laid on the ground and crawled, trying to orient myself away from the local and national officers that were pushing the protesters deeper into the city. I watched speechlessly as teens, who’s only offense was waving their fists in the air, got beaten with night sticks and boots. Black, white, Asian, Indian, Native American: we were all equalized under the fallacious moniker of “violent rioters.” The power structure built to protect us unblinkingly assaulted and injured anyone in reaching or shooting distances. Officers broke car windows to reach inside and shoot drivers and passengers alike.
They beat us with shields. I can think of no greater symbol of this whole mess than getting crushed by a shield.
One African American gentleman in the front of the pack held water bottles in both of his hands, throwing officers the peace sign. He was warned to back up or they would, “blow off his head.”
My eyes burnt and swelled nearly shut, but in another way, they had been opened for the first time.
I’d never seen such violence, and every news station I could find failed to cover the malicious attacks against lawful protesters. We were (are) called rioters that should be stopped, but when real rioters began taking advantage of the chaos to destroy and vandalize, the police stood and watched, preferring rather to beat young men of color. Criminals, real criminals, threw bricks through glass and spray painted their undulating tags on the walls of local businesses, but the seven officers across the street were too occupied in kicking and cuffing a single woman of color to do anything.
The shade of white noise and white voices that most of us sit under stays comfortable for as long we choose to stay in it. You don’t understand because you have never left the shade to step into the blazing rays of the real world where, to the people who have no reason to care, promises mean nothing if they are inconvenient, and the people who will get burnt up most without that shade will always be the ones who take the least amount of effort to abuse.
It’s African Americans right now, and it’s easy to try to rest on the hard work of the leaders of the civil rights movement and say things like, “They have the same rights that I do.” Tomorrow, you might be the easiest prey, though; our country proves day after day no one is safe. If you aren’t siding with the oppressed, the systematically under privileged, and the marginalized, you aren’t just siding with the bully.
You are the bully.
You are the problem. You are the toxic sludge that pollutes the rivers of justice and civil liberty that we all should be able to draw from, especially those of us who begin lives at a deficit. If you really think your ideology is sound, then you should have no issue listening to the sides that oppose you. I can’t encourage listening enough, actually listening, and then becoming a voice for justice in any small way that you can. No one is asking you to know everything, but we all expect you to learn, to grow, to be kind, to step out of the white noise.
Or, you know, you can sit in the shade with your forty acres in a mule.
No lives matter until black lives matter.