Thank you, Black Lives Matter
You opened my eyes. I thought I was pretty literate when it came to racism, but I really couldn’t see. And I didn’t know that I couldn’t see.
When Travon Martin was killed, and George Zimmerman acquitted, I was horrified but I thought it was an anomaly. That’s Florida for you, I told myself. One crazy neighborhood-watchman gone wrong. But after your movement taught me to start looking, I suddenly began seeing how relentless and pervasive such incidents are. That could be because the media started reporting them more often, but you guided the media to do so, and to connect them as part of a culture of racist terror, not just isolated incidents. You gave a voice to those who broadcasted racist violence on social media. You helped us see that these murders and acquittals are all linked. Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, Walter Scott, they are all part of the same systemic problem. Now that you’ve shown that to me, I can’t believe I didn’t realize it before. And I am sorry. And I am trying to do better.
I recently listened to the recording of Sandra Bland’s arrest and assault. It honestly kind of broke me for a while. You can hear so clearly the moment — the moment when she transitions from angry to terrified. The moment she is traumatized. When she realizes he might kill her and get away with it.
Thank you for teaching me that Black families live in fear of this every day. I didn’t know that every time your children leave the house, you worry that they might not come home. I didn’t realize how fucked up our system still is that your murderers are never even prosecuted, even when they’re caught on video.
How do you cope? How have you managed under so much loss and trauma that is never brought to justice, never even recognized? We white people have just been going about our lives, la-dee-dah, turning the narrative around, saying “All lives matter!” and “Don’t pull out the Race Card.” Our sickest perversion was convincing ourselves that you are the more dangerous ones. All the while, you get locked up for decades for a possession charge, and we get away with murder.
I just want you to know that your work has done enormous good. I don’t think I speak only for myself when I say that you have taught me so much. It shouldn’t have been your job to teach me, but you have. Now I see racism everywhere, where I was previously oblivious. I devour news about racist education policies and racist housing practices. I hear people I love say, “Why do they dress like that?” and “Where are you from?” and I cringe. I listen to lawmakers talk about “law and order” and I hear the subtext: “Lock up those brown people.” I’m becoming painfully aware of my own failures.
It all sharpens my resolve to do more. I ask more questions and start more conversations. I am trying to figure out how to be helpful to my community, and how to follow your lead. I spent Mother’s Day having a cookout; you spent it bailing moms out of jail. Thank you. Thank you for your work. Your movement is incredibly important.