We all have things that make us who we are, race being a big piece of that. The skin color we were born into determines so much of the identity we will be able to create in the future. I've been thinking a lot about identity lately as a biracial woman. I've been thinking about all lives matter, blue lives matter, and black lives matter and where I fit in.
My perspective is one of a half black, half white woman, who has grown up in predominantly Latino and white communities and goes to a predominantly white school. I also have a father who is a firefighter, and risks his life to help others. Although he is not a policeman, I have a comparable understanding of what it is like to be the daughter of a man whose hard work often goes without thanks, and sometimes is met with danger and disrespect. All these things that make me "me" also give me a unique perspective on recent events concerning the shooting of black men by police officers.
The first thing I would like to say, is that aiming to create equality for all should never be opposed. Giving the same opportunities to succeed, feel safe, and express oneself should not be questioned. Maybe those who support the "all lives matter" movement actually have good intentions and are confused as to what "black lives matter" actually means, so let's break it down yet again.
POC (people of color) are reminded every day that they are in many ways inferior. When suspicion is cast on them while shopping instead of a white person, though they both could come from the same place, have the same socioeconomic standing, and education level. When people cross the street when they see a black man because they think that for some reason he is more dangerous than the white man they now must walk by. When they go to Target and have to visit a small section for "ethnic" hair, while there is a plethora of options for people with less kinky hair. It's these little things that are constant reminders that POC are less and do not matter. "Black lives matter" is a reminder to these people that they do matter because they already know that other lives matter. Think of it as having an implied "too" because that is exactly what the movement aims to promote.
When POC see yet another person of color killed by police and for them to have no repercussions, it's scary more than anything. The anger that many express comes from a place of deep fear, a fear of being judged in a split second on the way you look, of having your kids, dad, mom, siblings profiled and categorized immediately. The fear that you won't be able to explain why you didn't use a blinker, or why your tail light is out.
People can not change the color of their skin, but at the end of the day we all have somewhat of a choice in what job we pursue. This is why "blue lives matter" comes across as especially disrespectful. Police officers choose to take on the challenging, dangerous job of protecting communities across America. However, at the end of the day if they want to take off that uniform and never put it back on again they can do that, a black person can not shed their skin in an effort to feel the same relief.
POC and people in general are understandably getting tired of talking about race relations in America. It can weigh on a person to keep talking about a vital yet sometimes overwhelming issue, but we can not let that deter us. Communication between communities is one of the first, yet most important steps into moving towards a safer and more equal America. Voicing your concerns (yes, over and over again) is important. Keeping the spotlight on inequality is important. Helping so thwart ignorance with conversations is important.
To the the black and other POC reading this, please do not stop trying to educate those on the inequalities you face or see on a daily basis. Make sure you not only educate others, but educate yourself about politics and everything else. Be eloquent, but real when you have opportunities to make change, and don't look down on those who ask you genuine questions about you and your people. Be proactive and try to work with the police within your community, so you both can understand and respect each other.
To the police officers who have read this, thank you, but we are also asking you to do better. We know that police officers are necessary and have time and time again come to the aid of people no matter their skin color. We are asking you to do that, but to also be honest with yourselves and your fellow officers about what is going on today. Hold fellow officers accountable when they step out of line. Take the extra training classes that may make your job easier and safer and those in the communities you patrol that much more comfortable. Show America that we can trust you, no matter our skin color.
To all the people who do not fit into the previous categories, thank you for reading yet another article about race in America, but that is not enough. It is not enough to do nothing when you see and know that the police have done something wrong. It is also not enough to rely on POC to inform you about every detail of the problems their communities face. POC have had to learn about "white" history all their lives, maybe you should read up on our history, and the history POC are making today.
Let's keep talking about this. Let's not forget what Black Lives Matter really means, and why the title of the movement is fitting and proper. We have the opportunity daily to make changes to make society better, whether you are white, black, or blue.