I have a strong love/hate relationship with the city I live in. I love it because it’s an underdog. It was once a fancy place in the middle of Michigan with department stores and a public rail system downtown. The factories were booming and a lot of products were actually made here.
I moved here in 2003. In 2008 this place got hit. Hard. A lot of industry left. People who could, left. The largest employers are the prison, the hospital, and the utility company. I love it because there are glimmers of a comeback. You can drive fifteen minutes in any direction and be in the country. I hate it because there are so many signs that we’ll be stuck for a long, long time. There is very little progress here. The area, largely, remains in the grip of the good old boys club.
I remember a few years back the local newspaper reported about the fireworks for (pick one) either Memorial Day, Fourth of July, or Labor Day. (We love our fireworks here!) And the cover photo selected showed people enjoying the fireworks in the bed of their pickup truck, swaddled in a blanket made in the design of the confederate flag. I scratched my head and wondered WHY would the newspaper select that particular image to represent our town?
Little by little, I’ve started to understand, that this is where I live.
Early this morning I went outside for my interval training. I was walking my cool down when I saw a green Toyota Matrix. In the back seat, turned completely outward to watch the world go by, was a scruffy looking dude wearing a confederate flag trucker hat. I let out a sharp burst of air. In addition to a global pandemic, our country is experiencing some serious civil unrest. But here’s this dude, cruising around town, delivering newspapers with a confederate flag on his head. This is where I live.
In response to a strong Black Lives Matter presence on social media, I’m seeing a lot of local ignorance asking, “Don’t ALL lives matter?” Sure. Of course they do. And if you truly believed that all lives mattered, then you’d be outraged to recognize that black lives are in danger simply by taking a jog, watching birds in the park, or having the police called on them.
I think what the statement that “ALL lives matter” means is that the oppressed raising a stink about their oppression brings discomfort to the privilege that the white have come to know. But freedom is like love: just because more people have it, doesn’t mean there is less for others.
Forget the protests for a second, forget the military response, and all the political nonsense happening. Let’s just focus on Black Lives Matter (BLM). The main goal of BLM is that they are working to see “a world where Black lives are no longer systematically targeted for demise.” Simple. Why shouldn’t people of all skin colors know the freedom of living without fear of persecution?
If the notion of freedom and justice for all makes you bristle, it’s time to have a good, long chat with yourself. Where does your hatred come from? Who taught you your superiority? Why are you carrying hatred around with you? Why are you threatened by the concept of every human living with the same privilege as yourself?
Sure, sure, the current black lives on the planet are not same as the slaves of 400 years ago. Yet, most have not known true emancipation since 1865. They’ve continued to live oppressedand marginalized lives. And this is why Black Lives Matter. It’s time to truly erase the inequities. You can’t just hope that other people will fix this. “Abe Lincoln freed the slaves. Martin Luther King Jr. did his thing. We good?” Nope. No, we’re not.
This past week I’ve been inundated with images and video that I can’t really process. It seems that hate, rage, violence, and the willingness to act-out are at a peak (my goodness, I hope it’s a peak). Likewise there are so many peacefully gathering, despite a global pandemic, to raise awareness not just for George Floyd, but for all the black lives impacted by police brutality and broad stroke injustice.
I hope that this means that change is coming. We need it.
The next time someone says or writes “ALL lives matter” know that that is their white privilege showing. And like their skirt is tucked into their underwear, they ought to be embarrassed.