I’m sick of death. I’m sick of becoming immune to knowing at least three trending topics for that day will include the loss of life. And more than anything I’m sick of blaming groups of people because our skin tones differ. People are so quick to say that blue lives matter, that all lives matter, but black lives matter is an outrageous claim. “Stop making everything about race.” I will, I promise I will, when things stop being about race. I watched a man die on camera as his daughter sat in the backseat and his girlfriend was screamed at to remain still. I watched not because I wanted to, but because I had to bear witness. That’s our jobs, to bear witness to the lives, and in this case the death of others. We watched as someone begged for air. We continue to watch, we continue to say that all lives matter but so many are so quick to assume fault if a person is black that I don’t buy it. 11 cops were gunned down yesterday which is absolutely another gun tragedy but we didn’t even ask what their histories were before we mourned, before we condemned this act as an atrocity. That we only do for some. Yesterday I gave you stats, today I give you my opinion.
In my classroom one of the many topics we cover is institutionalized racism, systematic oppression. It’s usually one of the biggest eye openers for students who expected my class to be about Freud, or why people do the things we do. They don’t expect that sometimes, the reasons why people are who they are, or do what they do, is less because of the person, and more because of how society has leveled against them. I don’t talk politics, because it has nothing to do with it, the political divide is a symptom of it, not the cause.
A common theme you hear is to “pull yourself up” usually by your bootstraps. It’s a phrase that I’ll admit, has some merit as you have to put effort into change. But by your bootstraps? You ever try that? It’s actually an impossible task- try it and see. Sit down, and take the laces of your shoes and pull…then try to stand. Are you on your backs yet? It’s usually what happens when I do that exercise. Everyone wants to believe that if you just try hard enough, choose the right path that everything will fall into place. Nothing could be further from the truth. No one gets anywhere alone. As I’ve said, effort is one part, one part of a pie. And there are some pieces that are held far beyond the reach of many simply because of the status of their birth, their skin color, their gender. So you can pull those bootstraps all you want, what’s you’ll end up with is a rope and nowhere to go.
Environment, society, these are instrumental factors in our day to day lives that we ignore unless we feel the movement of them against us. Many of us get to travel through life on a stream, hitting rough waters at time, but in the direction of the water, but what if we were constantly swimming upstream? What if the water was actually against us? That’s what institutional racism is, that’s what systematic oppression feels like. You might be going in the right direction, but you’re pushed back by outside forces. And you know what, even if a person has a past rap sheet, even if they have criminal activity, even if they choose to do nothing- that person has worth. Stop sitting in judgment of others, stop looking into their past unless you’re prepared to be helping them with their future. Stop saying you knew, or you’ve done because that doesn’t matter. You don’t know, you know nothing of them and their story, just as they know nothing of you and how you came to be. We must learn that our own stories are just that, our own. And that is not generalizable to anyone but you. Forget about their story, first see them for what they are, a human being no different than you except in their own individuality. Start there, see the humanity, and then tell me you don’t see worth. Tell me again about justified homicides, because there are cases where that is true, but we’re not finding many here.
Some people cross the divide, and what happens when they speak out? What was the response to Jesse Williams? How about our nation’s President? Damned if he speaks, damned if he doesn’t. President Obama is someone being blamed for both the death of the police officers as well as the responsibility of the police officers who shot and killed the group of men in the past few days. A former House representative warned that “real Americans are coming for you,” Well I’ve got news for Mr. Walsh, I am a real American, and the only thing I’m coming for is change. Change to make sure that all individuals feel safe in their home, in their streets, in their country. Change that we don’t measure a person based on our ideas of contribution to society, that we measure them based on the fact that we are the same. Anything else is furthering this disgusting phenomenon occurring without relent, like a constant beating of a drum with every hit another name sent to death.
So yes, I want cops to live, I want whites to live, and I want blacks to live. And everyone in between or outside those groups guess what? I want you to live, I want you to not just survive but thrive. And I want you to not be afraid. If you can trust nothing else, you can trust this, you have nothing to fear from me. Change will come, but sadly as history tells us, change only comes when the ground can no longer hold the amount of blood in the streets. Maybe one day it will, but today, we must fight on the battlefields where our brothers and sisters continue to die- because it is their blood which will make us change.
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