Black Lives Matter.
It’s the simple truth of this whole movement. And I’m happy to say that truly few people will disagree with this statement. That’s progress.
But sadly, it’s not enough. Our country’s political, legal, social, and economic system does not fully reflect this sentiment. And even though most of us agree black lives matter, we all bear some responsibility in trying to positively nudge our system to do better, however we can. And in support of the #theresnobadwaytoprotest idea, I’d like to reaffirm the feeling that although we do all share the responsibility, the diversity in how we choose to affect these changes will, and should, reflect the diversity of our people that make up this country.
I wanted to share a simple set of reminders how we can encourage change in the system:
- Talk about it.
- In our proudly capitalist system, like it or not, few things speak louder than your $$$––donate it.
- Go to a local protest that is suitable to you. Continue to go.
- Learn more about racism, and it’s often unconscious and unintentional presence all around our lives and language.
- Acknowledge it. No matter how personally responsible you may feel for it, we owe it to all of our black and brown and colored brothers and sisters to simply do our best to empathize with something we will never fully understand.
TALK ABOUT IT
No, talking about it does not mean you MUST post on social media. But it DOES mean you should have conversations with those you care about around you, even if they’re slightly uncomfortable. Watch an intriguing movie or documentary on the topic and discuss it with your friends. Talk to your parents about their ideas on the matter. Ask any of your BIPOC friends about their personal experience with racism.
There’s so many ways to use your money. Support local black-owned businesses and artists in your community, find organizations that are doing important work and help fund them with a donation, and equally powerful, don’t give your money to companies or people that clearly do not support racial equality.
Protests, like the people that make them up, come in all shapes & sizes. I went to the protest in my local neighborhood Shoreline last weekend which was organized by some of the local black high schoolers, and although roughly 90% of the crowd was white and suburban families, it didn’t make it any less important and powerful. There were few policemen even there. Much different than the news might make out current protests to be right now. A radically different vibe from the Capital Hill Occupied Protest that happened downtown.
LEARN ABOUT RACISM
It may be unnerving, but the truth is our country’s history is rife with unabashedly atrocious stories of racism and destruction. From the completely false narrative around Christopher Columbus and his “peaceful accords with the natives of the new world” to the disheartening origins of police officers in the USA, there is absolutely no questioning the fact that our country has irreparably abused non-white people for the majority of our existence.
Sadly, there are still many ways in which it is currently occurring including the disproportionate incarceration rates of non-white, particularly black, Americans and the abysmal economic inequalities from employment to wealth distribution for BIPOC Americans to just name a few. There’s plenty more.
Awareness of the issues is the first step.
This ties directly into my previous recommendation, and something we can all relate to. How often in relationships with loved ones do we simply seek and long to be acknowledged? Especially when we’ve been wronged, when a mistake has been made. Mistakes are inherently human, and no matter the color of your skin, we can all empathize with this and also forgive them. But forgiveness is extremely difficult when no one admits or even acknowledges wrongdoing.
We have wronged all non-white Americans for hundreds of years. You should feel that, at the very least, at the core of who you are. Maybe not directly, but absolutely indirectly.
My Personal Experience
My own story of race & identity is a strange one. I grew up in a big, small town called Wichita Falls (WF), Texas, located in north Texas about a 20 minute drive from the border of Oklahoma. The nearest major city is Dallas about 120 miles southeast of WF, or 2 hours by car.
A town of roughly 100,000 people according to the most recent census, WF is a town I jokingly like to say has one of everything, but none of anything. Anyone from there would probably agree, WF has just about one of everything. One mall, one movie theater, one concert venue–meaning it’s not so small it doesn’t have at least one of those things that cities typically have, but they’re few and far between, and certainly don’t attract large numbers of people or very many “stars” to come there to perform. It may be a slight exaggeration, but it gives you an idea of the city’s scale. I’ll never forget when a few of my close friends from college drove through WF one time and came to visit my home, they couldn’t even believe there was 100,000 people in this town. It certainly doesn’t look it.
Wichita Falls is also unsurprisingly a pretty conservative place overall. The town votes red by majority (73% voted for Trump in 2016), and runs right along the Bible Belt of the USA. Wichitans are pretty simple people in general. I always say Wichitans care about 3 things generally–family, faith, and football. And it’s really true. I’d say sports, religion, and family are probably the most common priorities of people who live there.
Another fascinating fact of the city is the long-running rivalry within the city between 2 of its 3 large high schools, Wichita Falls High School (Old High) and Rider High School.
The week of the football game regularly attracts various forms of vandalism, wrecks, and attacks from both sides. The 4 years I was in school saw a beheaded coyote (Old High’s mascot) thrown on the frown lawn of our school, numerous incidents of paint-balling, and lot of theft of school signs, banners, and flags. Not to mention, numerous occasions of fights between students of the schools. The game itself regularly packs full the 15,000 seats at the city’s main venue for big games, Memorial Stadium.
That’s literally 15% of the city one place at the same time annually, for a simple high school football game. That’s Wichita Falls.
That all being said, it was my experience as a football player and athlete at Old High those 4 years that played a pivotal role in my life. A significant aspect of that experience was undoubtedly the fact that the Old High was an exceptionally diverse school even though Wichita Falls itself, statistically, is not. I played sports–blood, sweat, and tears–with an evenly split group of white, black, and brown bodies.
Sharing multiple years of struggle and success with such a wide range of individuals taught me so many things. It taught me that love and pain know no physical boundaries. It taught me that although there can be misunderstanding from cultural differences, there is significantly more joy and benefit that comes from shared acceptance of and mutual pride in our individual differences. And lastly, it taught me directly how impossible and impractical it is to try and sum up a group of “people.” Black, brown, or white, all bodies come in all different forms. Criminal, evil, angry, beautiful, inspiring, successful–all these characteristics can be found in all colors of people. It’s simply up to us to make the time to truly find that out for ourselves.
Despite having grown out of my extreme passion for sports and football now as merely an adult spectator (outside of playing them), I’ll never forget or take for granted just how valuable those years were to me. But I know not everyone was blessed with the same kinds of experiences I was growing up, and even though that’s no excuse for someone’s poor behavior, on some level it can help us understand an individual’s misplaced fear, and the terrible actions that it leads to in how they treat others. True peace, inner and out, can only arise through compassionate understanding.
Today, I want to remember that black lives still matter. Our country is still failing you. Our country has promised you, and promised you, and promised you, yet nothing comes. Your anger, your sadness, your outrage, your disappointment–whatever emotion you feel, it is justified. You 100% have the right to feel it, whatever it is. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
To offer some glimmer of hope in these dark times, I feel it necessary to remember that this is exactly what progress requires, failure. It’s only from failure that we can find any success. It’s only through our failures that we find our measure for improvement. We’re still failing, and perhaps we will never stop, but any logical mind also knows we’ve progressed. We’ve come a long way with civil rights in the short history of our country, longer ways than many countries that are hundreds and thousands of years older than we are. But that’s always the devil of progress, the ease at which we can lose ourselves in our failures and take all of our success for granted. We must remain diligent in both our never-ending battle for improvement as much as finding gratitude and appreciation for all the progress we’ve made. This is the true human struggle.
Nevertheless, I believe in us. I believe in the dream of our founding fathers, in a United States that truly stands and acts for equality, in opportunity as much as acceptance. A United States that fights for peace and compassion and shared prosperity. And although all the sports and politics and news coverage of our country may unconsciously nudge you otherwise, THIS IS NOT A GAME. This is not red vs blue, republican vs democrat, black vs white, rich vs poor–this is all of us together, or none of us at all. Because the truth is that our country’s greatness will only ever be derived from the prosperity of us as a cooperative whole, not as divided and competing individuals. If we find the patience and compassion to see past our differences, we’d realize that we are all playing the game hoping for the same outcomes. And if we find a way through all these surface-level differences, we’d realize that our differences do not make us different, they make us unique, and it’s precisely this uniqueness that makes our country such a special place worth calling home.
Together, I believe we can make this dream a reality. The road is a difficult one, but we knew that already. It will take constant diligence and regularly rising after we fall, but we’re no strangers to strife. I hope our country does better, I hope I do better, I promise I’ll try. And at the end of the day that’s the only thing we can truly take responsibility for, ourselves. If we all honestly did that, I know everything else will work itself out.
Together we must stand.
Black lives matter.