The Genesis of #BlackLivesMatter and the Rise of Open Bigotry in Politics
Heather Nann
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I would love to be a part of this conversation and like you, I am a white woman, mother of both a boy and a girl, and believe this is a discussion that has been incredibly important, has been happening, but not nearly at the level of engagement it should be from all people, and from the perspective of seeking to listen, absorb, and empathize… rather than defend or berate. The bias and stark contrasts between the struggles I will face versus a black or a brown person will almost assuredly face are glaring. I have the normal worries of raising my children, the hopes for their success, the fears for their health and safety. However, my fears stem from their personal choices and the worry they may not always make good ones; fears of social pressure and failing to find their true identities instead of assuming the more popular idea of one, and fears regarding the current financial outlook and hoping they are successful in the work they pursue and can lead a life of financial security instead of struggling like their father and I did (and we did struggle but for the most part due to the fact that we chose to not protect ourselves, when we had the resources to, to postpone having children instead of having one at 19, not pursue an education and earn a degree so we could bring in an income to support our family, poor money management choices early on that effected us later…those were whole heartedly our actions that led to those circumstances). I can look toward their lives now and see a future where they will have the option to personally succeed and fail, with only a chance that some random thing can happen to cut that life short.

That isn’t the case for many. Whereas they have all the fears that I do, they also live with the reality that the system that they must exist within is designed to not work in their favor, or even remotely fairly at all.

I worry my children will someday be in trouble with the law. There are several members of my immediate and extended family who have always been in some kind of trouble with the law. All of that trouble was because they did something that broke a law. It has, in not one instance, been because of the color of their skin, which neighborhood they happened to be in, or because they were seen as a threat, yet were completely innocent, just happened to be visible, and posed no threat at all. I don’t fear my child will lose his life at the hands of the police. I don’t worry that my child will be wrongly incarcerated. I don’t worry that my child, even if a law is broken, will face more severe charges, receive a harsher punishment, and face far longer sentences (IF EVEN CONVICTED AT ALL) than someone else because my child just happens to be white (appears fully Caucasian, but is half Mexican in reality which really doesn’t matter).

It breaks my heart as a mother, as a woman, and as a human being that this is something that so many people DO have a very real, very tangible, very valid reason to worry about the things that I don’t. It kills me as an American to hear my fellow Americans deny that this is the reality of our environment today.

It angers, disgusts, and frustrates me to no end that I hear statements and proclamations of hate, intolerance, and prejudice from not just politicians and those who work in public service, but from so many average Americans who project them as well. I am disappointed and disgusted by such ignorance and archaic lines of thought and beliefs.

What is equally frustrating is that so many average Americans who do not support this line of thinking, do not denounce the idea that racism is still very much a part of the American culture, governing system, and public consciousness (even if it exists on the subconscious level), yet still do nothing to address and speak up about the issue. We complain and we care about what impacts is directly. We exist in our own little bubble, and as long as that bubble isn’t burst for us as an individual, then we don’t pay attention and invest in what’s happening outside of it. Often times, even when that bubble is burst, we have been so disconnected to how it occurred, that people often buy into what the media and the masses tell us caused it, instead of looking at where the root cause started, and how it was able to propagate and grow to the destructive force it had become (take the 2008 economic recession).

But this does effect us. It makes us poor examples of what being human, of what humanity, should have evolved to become. There are so many differences between all of us; race, ethnicity, religion, gender, self identification, sexual orientation, income level, environment, geographic location, that feed what becomes our individuality. Those things shape our history, our experiences in the world and our perspective, and our own personalities and independent thinking with that, form the person we become and live as.

These things are beautiful and unique, people are beautiful and unique because of WHO they are, and who they are is the result of their environmental and cultural influences, genetics, and individual thoughts, personal choices, and emotions. These things, as you said should be revered. They should not simply be tolerated, but learned about, embraced, and celebrated.

Occasionally, there are people who are, for lack of a better word, bad. They are selfish, consciously seek to harm, to control, to gain from others for their personal agenda. These are the exceptions.

A white person walked into a movie theatre and opened fire. He carried numerous fire arms, killed many, and wounded even more. A white man set brought down a building in Oklahoma using and detonating explosives, taking the lives of, and injuring, so many, and impacting the lives of countless others. Two white students on a fateful day walked into their school and opened fire on their classmates and teachers in Columbine.

An unimaginable number of times, this has occurred in other schools, in other settings, with other people, before and after these events took place. Lives were taken and lost, people were wounded and suffered. The number of victims countless in their wake.

In the cases where the people responsible for these horrific acts actually lived to be taken into custody, they received a fair trial. They received fair sentencing (in some cases more than fair). And, the public moved on.

The difference is, in these cases, the guilty parties were in fact guilty. I could give detailed lists of all the guilty individuals who were never convicted of their crimes, or even reported for them. The system is skewed and bias to only consistently work for and be fair to those that represent the people in power, which is overwhelmingly white males.

And, in the cases where a person has lost their life, without due process, without even a chance to react, without the protection of “innocent until proven guilty”, while being absolutely that…an innocent, how have their families, their communities, and their peers seen Justice be served?

Those responsible for their death are allowed their freedom and in almost every case face no repercussions, with an insignificant percentage even going to trial for, in fact, committing a crime or taking actions that cost the life an innocent person, and too many times that person was a CHILD. And in so many cases the individual was mentally ill, excessive force was used, the individual was unarmed and often already in police custody, several instances where the person killed was fleeing, did not pose a threat, and were shot from behind, or situations where the person was “accidentally” killed by officers while at a scene and even while attempting to help those who had called for police assurance.

And this is just specific to those killed by the people who are supposed to serve and protect. There are so many other areas where racial bias and outright racism are blatantly apparent and experienced. From the Oscars, to discrimination and racial slurs being flung in public schools and college campuses, discrimination in the workplace, and in everyday public settings where is is displayed and projected out to the world or just an individual.

This is not the way anyone should be treated ever. Whether it’s for their race or ethnicity, the religion they practice, their gender, their sexual orientation, age, or disability, unacceptable and hateful treatment cannot be tolerated on any level. It’s not just distancing yourself from those who do believe it, it’s speaking out against them openly. It’s not something to ignore, to allow by non agreement which isn’t the same as opposing.

My question would be this. What else can we collectively and individually do to make this period, where race is the not just a part of the entire makeup of an Individual, but where racism is so common it isn’t even seen by those not experiencing it, the system in place does not work for but against minorities, the people in power represent a dismal percentage of the people they are supposed to represent and that make up our population, and the false and preconceived notions of an entire group of people are accepted as fact by a large portion of our citizens? What can I do to help our collective humanity finally evolve into a time when we see each other simply as human beings, and our merit and ability and worth are based on the individual we are, and all that define us as such, will determine how we see each other?

I will do anything I can to be a part of this change I so desperately want. Please let me know what you’re doing and what else I can do. Thank you for starting this.

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