Black. Lives. Matter. Period. Full Stop.
by Jane Tawel
June 3, 2020
Yesterday, I read a great, helpful, and meaningful essay that was about Biden’s comments on blacks voting in the upcoming election, but the comment is very relevant for all of us who are not waking up black in America today. Something we need to take in as we speak and if we speak. And it was this: “The message may be right, but we are not the right messenger”.
You may philosophically be correct when you insist that “all lives matter”, but if you are just coming to that conclusion as a response, a rebuttal, or a pass card for your inaction or complacency, as a bait and switch to the idea that “black lives matter”, then you haven’t earned the right. You are changing the conversation because you feel uncomfortable with the reality.
If you have been out there in the trenches working for justice for people of color, acting to make changes in institutionalized racism, voting against people who are incapable of empathy or of upholding the values of the American Dream for all, or if you are truly living a life of servant-hood and service for people who have never had your advantages, then go for it. Speak away about “all lives”. If not, perhaps it is better to listen first to the experts and to ask yourself: Do I truly believe enough to take real action? Do I honestly believe that black people matter enough to stand up and stand with them? Have I tried to find out about the reasons black people feel the way they do? Do I believe they have a right to be angry, to be tired after years of fearfulness and racist policies and treatment, to be shocked at the violence allowed against them again and again and again, to be sorrowful, to feel helpless? Do I care enough to remember the times I have felt that way because of something in my own life, and take in the deep knowledge, that if I were black I would feel that way every day, year after year, century after century — what would THAT be like — to never believe my life mattered as much as someone else’s because I had black skin? Do I believe in the words of Jesus and the echoing message of John F. Kennedy that “to whom much is given, much is required”?
I have spent a lifetime in the lap of white privilege, so of course I have never had to say people my color matter. That is already a given in this country. It shouldn’t be so difficult for us to see that it has never been and still is not a given for people of color in America. I feel my own need to stand with, stand for not just “my black friends”, but for all black Americans, at this time and then to shut up and listen to their pain and to call out people for their acceptance of white privilege, and to call out racism, and to start finding real ways for me to get off my old white duff and DO SOMETHING.
I will not change the conversation by saying that “all lives matter” because I live in a country that has never believed that to be true. I will do my best to use my voice for the right fights at the right time. And as in any thing, I will listen to the experts before I chime in. I am so grateful that I have experts who are willing to speak truth to me and who know what they are talking about, because they have studied — day after day, taken life after taken life, fear and sorrow after more fears and sorrows — lessons learned the hard way in the hard halls of experience while being black in this world.
Are you listening to the experts on the black experience in America today? I pray to the God of all of us, that I will continue to speak, but that more importantly I will act for better justice and equality for black people. Period. Full stop. — in this, my nation, whose owing is way past due. #blacklivesmatter