For many years I was very ‘involved’ politically. During that time I had passionate experiences on both sides of the political aisle. It has been years, however, since I’ve posted anything publicly. A few years ago, a frustration and weariness set in, causing me to think “What’s the point?” I also realized I was doing more harm than good given my predilection for winning any argument no matter the cost or even whether I was on the right side of the debate. There was also my intense viewpoint, i.e a big fat mouth. So I’ve remained silent, for the most part happily so.
Like everyone else, the events last week unnerved me. After a lot of thought, I decided to make a rare post on events more weighty than food and film.
For those who don’t know me, a few declaratives are in order that relate to the title of this essay. Few people will agree with me on every one of these statements of belief. I humbly ask you to continue reading if you react negatively to any of them. Nor am I asking you to agree with me when you have finished. Just hear me out all the way.
As for my declarative statements:
Socially I have ended up fairly liberal, though I definitely have a few conservative positions as well. I am a believer in God, a person of faith. I cannot stomach either of our presidential candidates. I believe in the Second Amendment, but that does not include the right to automatic weapons. You could not find a more ardent, fierce supporter of the police, our amazing men and women in blue. And I believe the statement ‘Black Lives Matter’ is of the utmost importance, though it took me a while to accept this last belief.
When I first heard the phrase ‘White Privilege’ I bristled. Big time.
I can’t help I was born white. I can’t help my dad worked hard his entire life, from having no money to having a very successful career, one that gave me a comfortable life growing up. I don’t ask for anything, I work hard. Even thought I am white, my own life has been very, very difficult at times. More thank you might imagine. I’m not racist, I’m anything but. Don’t make me feel guilty because I’m white.
I bristled similarly when I first saw the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’.
Well, yeah. Of course they do. We all agree on that, don’t we? If someone doesn’t agree, they are a racist. Why do we have to single it out? “All Lives Matter”, that’s all we need to say.
In a word, no.
Let me start from a faith perspective. God calls each of us to a primary action, a continual undertaking. This primary action is something I struggle with daily and see many fellow believers continually ignore. God calls us first and foremost to look inward. He calls us to examine ourselves, daily, continually. Our desires, our motivations, our supposed needs. Even our core beliefs. God calls us to do this the minute we wake up, before we take a step, before we speak a word. He calls us to look inward first, to look inward over everything else, certainly before speaking out, even when we know we are right. Because even if we are right, maybe it might be best to keep quiet for a little while. And hear what somebody else has to say.
Yet we don’t. Because looking inward is humbling. And hard.
I’ve learned over the years when something makes me bristle, makes me angry, makes me self-righteous, makes me want to immediately let loose the fierce debater that lurks just under my skin, there is always a very good reason. A personal reason. Instead of sounding off, when I bristle, I know I need to look inward. It’s tough and I still fail but I know now when I react this way I should wait a little bit, be silent and look inward rather than project outward.
My temptation with White Privilege and Black Lives Matter was to ignore a few deep personal truths lurking inside. I wanted to immediately project outwards my righteous indignation. Because, let’s admit it, righteous indignation feels really good. It’s why so many of us express it all the time. Additionally, projecting outwards negates humbling inward reflection. Thankfully all the years of mouthing off and embarrassing myself helped me remain silent when I first heard these phrases. Instead, I thought about why I was so bothered by them.
I think the main reason was they made me uncomfortable. If you are white, when you hear either of these phrases, you basically have two choices… look inward in discomfort or project outward. I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable nor did I feel anyone had a right to make me uncomfortable. Who are you to make me feel this way, particularly when I am not a racist? Hmph.
Hmph is a very comfortable place for most of us. Hmph means I can sit in my annoyance and disagreement, feeling good about myself and my beliefs. Hmph means I don’t have to examine myself or entertain another point of view. Hmph is safe. Hmph feels good.
But Hmph is not good.
When I initially heard White Privilege and Black Lives Matter I thought ‘Hmph’ and then I thought Who are you to make me feel uncomfortable? I wanted to sound off. Before I could sound off, I heard a pastor I respect, someone who is black, say, “I’m tired of having to talk about the Black experience only in ways that make white people feel comfortable.”
I felt like I’d just done that ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
Yeah. That was my demand. My right. To address this issue only in a way that made me feel comfortable. Don’t for a minute challenge me, even for a simple discussion much less challenge a perspective change. But we must look inward.
If you are white and can’t admit our experience is different than someone who is black, you are not looking inward. Even something as simple as walking down the street is different for someone who is white. If you are bristling about this, do this for me: take right and wrong out of the equation. It’s not right or wrong, it’s not good or bad, it’s just different. If you can start there, at least admit experiences are different for blacks and whites, you might then start to understand why even something as seemingly obvious as Black Lives Matter needs to be said. Because once you admit the experience of blacks and whites is different, you then have to admit that in many ways the black experience is different in a negative way. That negative experience needs to be addressed. To say, in the current climate, All Lives Matter wipes that negative experience under the rug. It gives us whites a comfortable place to sit. We don’t have to do something else God calls us continually to do which is walk down the street, even for just a block, in the shoes of someone who has a very different experience. Walk in their shoes, hear what they have to say, take a breath and look inward and your perspective might change.
As for Black Lives Matter vs All Lives Matter, I liked Matt McGorry’s simple and blunt explanation:
#BlackLivesMatter doesn’t mean other lives don’t. Like people who say ‘Save The Rainforests” aren’t saying “Fuck All Other Types Of Forests.
Readers who bristle… have you ever asked for a donation to a charity? If you said to me, “Please give to the Cancer Society” and I said, “What about all the other diseases? They are all important!” you would say “Yes, they are important too, I’m not asking you to disregard them, but those other charities are not what we are discussing right now. I’m asking for help with Cancer.” If I then said, ‘Well, sorry, I think all charities are important” and walked off, you would know for sure I was never going to support any charity. Which is why, in our current climate, to say All Lives Matter disregards the fact that Black Lives Do Indeed Matter. Blacks have a very different experience than Whites and All Lives Matter is an easy excuse to do nothing and ignore there is a problem. It’s an easy excuse not to look inward. Which we are called to do. Daily. Continually. Rather than, or at least well before sounding off.
If you are reacting with ‘Yeah, but…” just stop for a second. A great example is “Yeah, but Blue Lives Matter too.” Amen and indeed. I again want to say there is no more staunch defender and advocate of police than myself. Some of the best people I know and love, men and women, are cops. Zoe. Jose. Miguel. Mike. Sam. All amazing. Are there a few people in the Black Lives Matter movement saying terrible things about police? Yes indeed. But in the same way a bad cop does not, should not taint all cops, most of whom are good, strong men and women who want to make a difference in their towns and cities, don’t go all Hmph when someone in the Black Lives Matter movement says something wrong. That also is not an excuse for ‘Yeah, but…” If you are white and agree you should not be judged as a group by a Dylan Roof or Timothy McVeigh, don’t make that easy fall back of doing the same with Black Lives Matter. Look inward and try to understand why someone black has a different experience than you, try to understand what these phrases mean, where they come from and why they are important. Look inward before sounding off.
I get it, honestly. I bristled. For a while. At times I still do. Stop making me feel uncomfortable.
I think we also can agree that as Americans, of any political or cultural swipe, we love to sound off. It’s our right, right? Freedom of speech is a beautiful thing and I can exercise it any time!
Well, yes indeed you can. You can also embarrass yourself anytime, as I am wont to do. Yes indeed it is our right as Americans to sound off that way. It might not always be the most helpful thing, however, to exercise a right to free speech all the time.
How about we all look inward for a change before sounding off? Take a glance inward before saying Hmph.
Can you disagree with some of what members of Black Lives Matter say? Yes.
Can you support black lives and blue lives? Hell yes, as we say in Texas.
And Do All Lives Matter? Of course.
But that’s not what we are talking about right now. All Lives Matter is a given. What’s not a given, still, in our country, is that Black Lives Matter.