In the wake of the recent police shootings of black people (I leave this vague on purpose because, sadly, I am sure this will happen again and that my opinions will still be relevant then), I am once again seeing a mix of polarizing opinions break out about the "Black Lives Matter" movement, police corruption/brutality (or lack thereof), and America's race issue (or lack thereof). I've always been a person who likes to hear both sides of the story, but whenever these cases arise, the amount of rhetoric often makes that difficult. Still, I find myself forming an opinion of my own.
First of all, I would like anyone who reads my article to take it with a grain of salt. I say that because I, as a white woman, will never truly understand the plights that people of color, specifically black people, go through in America. I might study it, write papers on it as I am doing now. I might even ask black people in my community how they feel. Still, this does not mean that I will have ever actually lived it. I will never have to deal with the weight of centuries of discrimination against my race nor will I have to personally handle any present-day acts of racism or discrimination against myself. So while I can continue to write on the topic and try to educate myself and others, I will never be able to tell the whole story.
First, lets look at the "Black Lives Matter" movement. I often see people complain about this movement because they feel that it is not inclusive enough. I recently read a response written by a law professor that really hit home for me why we shouldn't follow this argument. In a letter to some some students concerned about his "Black Lives Matter" shirt, the professor responded, "There is a difference between focus and exclusion. If something matters, this does not imply that nothing else does... Here is something else that matters: context. The Black Lives Matter movement arose in a context of evidence that they don't. When people are receiving messages that from the culture in which they live that their lives are less important than other lives, it is a cruel distortion of reality to scold them for not being inclusive enough." I encourage my readers to read this professor's letter, because for me it answered questions and assumptions that I didn't even realize I had.
Next, let's look at the issue of police brutality. It seems like some of the most popular posts that get circulated around during times like these are posts about good policemen who play with little children of color and genuinely try to help their communities. Although people share these posts with good intentions, they often get confused when people are upset about the "not all cops..." mentality. As a young woman, these negative reactions remind me of how many ladies react when the saying "not all men..." is used. While it is true that not all men commit sexual assault or harm women, that doesn't mean that I am not going to be checking over my shoulder when I see an unknown man follow me out of the library at night. That doesn't mean that my lady friends aren't going to insist that I stay on the phone with them when I walk from the parking lot to our dorms on the weekends. Even though not all men act in this way, there are enough bad men in the world to make me worry. Similarly, even though not all cops are corrupt, there have been enough cases of police brutality that the black community has a legitimate reason to be wary.
Finally, there is the question of whether or not these incidents point to a race issue in America. Quite frankly, I believe the answer is yes. The United States has always had an issue with race, whether it be the slave trade, the massacre of Native Americans, or more recently, the issues of Jim Crow laws, institutionalized discrimination, and segregation. While people might say the discrimination has ended and there isn't a race issue anymore, I would point out that this argument was made during all of the above eras, which we now all see as areas with major race issues. I'm sure that in each era, there was someone who said, "they aren't just black slaves, look at the white indentured servants," or "we are only killing the savage Indians, if they would just assimilate into white culture they would be fine," or "segregation isn't a form of discrimination because separate can be equal." And yet now we know that slavery is bad, the Native American cultures are just as important as any other culture, and separate can never truly be equal. So while right now it may seem to some that these are isolated incidents and not truly a race issue, it is very possible that the future will show the truth of the matter.
Now, before I finish, I want to reiterate that although I have opinions on this matter, they should be taken with a grain of salt compared to the people personally involved in these cases. To be quite honest, I didn't even want to post this at first. I know that there are people who don't agree with me, people who I am friends with on social media, in fact. However, something compelled me to write this. Whether its just a gut feeling, or something more divine, I hope that these musings help at least one person understand the significance of the "Black Lives Matter" movement.