Black Lives Matter. Full stop. Nothing else. No ands or buts. While I was trying to write this post in my drafts google kept giving me the “something’s wrong” message – and obviously it wasn’t related but … it felt too on the nose.
We’ve all seen the protests. Too many times. This time for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and more deaths -mostly at the hands of police – that are emerging. Manuel Ellis. David McAtee. More. The pain, the anger, the work. (I’m not here for detractors.) Everyone knows there’s a deadly pandemic – imagine how much it takes to be out there protesting, in the midst of that, as the most vulnerable population. And don’t come at me or for the protests, haircut Karen. Racism is a public health crisis. In fact various jurisdictions and institutions have come out and declared it as thus. I’ve been vocal on other social media, but then it stuck me – I’d been silent on the blog. The thing that costs me the most, and where things stay. We’re at the point where silence is complicity. In fact, I saw this when posted on NPR: A Decade of Watching Black People Die it doesn’t even list everyone – and it’s so much. I really hope you’ll read it.
I’ve been saying this publicly since at least 2016 (I searched twitter for my handle and “diversify your friend group.”) So. Diversify your friend group. Your actual friends, not just your acquaintances. Don’t gaslight Black or other people of color about microaggressions or “everyday racism” they experience. A big thing on the internet a while back was sympathy vs empathy. If you’re not Black, you can’t understand how it is. I’m not Black – I’m not a parent. I can never fully understand what it is to live as a Black person in America, and especially not what it’s like to live in constant fear for my child – especially parents of young Black men.
And understand – that’s a huge issue. Black men are 2.5x more likely to be killed by police than white men. (I believe Black men are incarcerated at 6x the rate white men are.) This happens in jurisdictions where the Black population is much smaller than the white population.
It’s not enough to be “not racist.” We all need to be anti-racist. Voting is the very minimum. Make sure you vote in every election. Not just the big ticket ones. Vote in the primaries. Find out what you can about the candidates – which ones will work to demilitarize police? Which ones will work to actually protect and serve the community when it comes to sheriffs, and anyone else in law enforcement you can elect – prosecutors and such. Is the coroner an elected position where you live? The school board – will they work to end the school to prison pipeline? (The last time I looked at the numbers, a child who is put into juvenile detention has a seventy percent adult recidivism rate.)
Volunteer to be a Guardian Ad Litem. Look into your areas CPS – are mostly white kids being put into foster homes while BlPOC are being sent to institutions or locked facilities? Kids have pretty much been my life work so that’s not just where my focus lies but where my expertise is. Ask the questions. Bring your friends to city council meetings and make them uncomfortable. Hell – run for city council. (Or other office!) Write and/or call your representatives and senators. If they’re shitty – work to get them out of office.
Confront your racist friends and family when they say “all lives matter” or god forbid “blue lives matter.” (NO LIVES ARE BLUE, OKAY.) You don’t have to be aggressive about it of course, but don’t let it slide. It’s not easy. It’s uncomfortable, awkward, and sometimes awful. Sometimes these are people you dearly love. Sometimes they’re your parents.
And if you’re not Black, you don’t get to just check out. This systemic racism is on us. Take this heartache, sadness, exhaustion, all that. Imagine living it every day of your life. Through nothing you control. It’s the color of your skin. I’ve been seeing a lot of people sharing clips of Jane Elliott’s interviews and experiments. She’s been doing this since 1968.
Also, Consider why you think blonde hair, blue eyes, and pale skin to be the most beautiful. Why you want to color and lighten your hair, or even skin. If you’re not white – especially – why you want to bleach your hair, put in color contacts to look “more white.” Is it sometimes just purely cosmetic? Sure. But it often also is that white supremacy has brainwashed your standard of beauty. (A few years ago – and it’s come back how many items are “default white.” Bandaids. Tights. “Nude” shoes.)
I know I’m all over the place but it’s because racism has affected all aspects. I’m not an expert. I’m just trying to learn. I’ve been working with underprivileged at risk kids my entire adult life. Honestly more than 90% of the time (probably even higher) they’ve been not-white. And I’ve learned from kids too – changed my assumptions, learned about entirely different life experiences.
Listen, learn, use your privilege when and where you can. Support Black businesses and creators. It’s time to tear down this racist system. Don’t say “oh I don’t want to get political.” How is it POLITICAL to say “police shouldn’t randomly be murdering people – ESPECIALLY NOT BLACK PEOPLE.” HOW?! And this is why silence is not ok. Not just silence though – slacktivism. If you have kids, talk to them. Teach them about racism and privilege. Especially if you’re white.
For myself … my work involves social justice. All my non-romance reading, other than laws, is about social justice and the disproportionate affects our ~judicial system has on Black and Brown individuals. I’m known to raise holy hell when kids are treated unfairly and especially when it’s wite/Black kids being treated differently. For myself, I need to step up my leisure reading of Black romances authors too. I have a few go-to’s and a lot in my TBR, but I need to be more deliberate about it.
I’ve also let the Smithsonian Heritage Month posts slide – but I’m really hoping to bring them back next year. And not haphazardly. All authors and individuals are welcome to guest at ALBTALBS at any time – but I can understand why some people wouldn’t want to participate in SHMs and feel it’s lip service when it’s just X times instead of all times.
It’s a lot. We’re horrified. We’re heartbroken. And we’ve got work to do. I know I’ll mess up. I’m going to keep trying though, and doing the work, and learning. Join me.
[And some additions… there’s a lot – a lot more – this could go on for 10x the length… so I encourage you to scope out twitter and such for other resources and voices. Experts. Black writers and activists willing to educate.]
And a few things I wanted to add. This is one reason why Drew Brees is being criticized and why he deserves to be criticized. (Since writing my post he’s said a bit more … but …) I really hope you’ll also watch Malcolm Jenkins’ response – he’s one of Drew’s teammates.
This is a good resource for your Christian friends.
ETA!: GAH! I KNEW I’D FORGET THINGS! As I said there’s so much. I meant to add this in the original.
And this. (I’m joking but I’m also not when I say … white people like to listen to [only] white people…)
And then I saw this the day after posting. PLEASE if you watch nothing else… watch this one.
And now this from Sadie:
Black lives in this country are treated as though they matter less than white lives. It has been this way ever since white European colonizers invaded Africa and decided the indigenous peoples were, well, less. This shouldn’t be news to any of us who are white. Our ancestors decided Black people were less and therefore could be owned. Our ancestors used eugenics to “scientifically” confirm that white policies and practices built upon racism made white lives superior to Black lives.
When slavery in the United States was abolished, white supremacy wasn’t about to allow Black people to become equal. Every step of the way, policies and practices and beliefs founded within white supremacy were intentionally employed as a means to subjugate Black lives and remind them over and over that this is a white world and they should feel blessed that they even have any place within it.
Any time Black lives build success, wealth and prosperity white lives continue to violently burn it down. Look up the Black Wall Street massacre in Tulsa, OK, and the burning of Rosewood, FL. Look at how we continue to try to abolish Black lives. The lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Manuel Ellis, David McAtee, and far too many Black lives are mercilessly snuffed out because the systemic racism built from white supremacy leaves no room for them.
The country feels like it’s burning. And may be it should. Maybe it needs to burn so we can to dismantle the systemic racism and white supremacy this country was founded upon. Maybe out of the ashes we will be able to work toward restorative justice. Maybe we should defund the police and narrow the scope of their responsibilities while we build community safety nets and infrastructures necessary to ensure everyone has healthcare, mental health care resources, housing, food, and the security of knowing none of these things can be taken away. Maybe we need to take a hard look at our own belief systems and do the hard work of confronting our inner racists so we can heal and listen and cede space for those who have not been given the time or opportunities to heal from centuries of generational trauma.
Maybe we should dismantle white supremacy and systemic racism because it’s wrong. Black lives matter. They always have.