Writing this post isn’t easy. In fact, I won’t blame you for skipping over it. No matter what side of the aisle you find yourself politically, I hope you take this time to read and listen.
If you all know me personally, or have followed me long enough, you’ve probably figured out which side of the aisle I fall on politically. I have pretty strong opinions, and like most people with strong opinions I’m not afraid to let you know about them. I’m also, like a lot of people, pretty good at not listening to the other side of an argument when I feel like I’m in the right. It’s stubborn, and I’m aware of it, but at least I admit it’s part of my list of faults.
I’m also a straight, white male. Which would put me in the minority of my political leanings.
I have strong opinions on race, diversity, inclusion, and the like... but because of my status and privilege, I tend to make an effort to take a backseat on discussions about those topics. Mostly because I don’t know what it’s like to be Black in America. I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman, I don’t know what it’s like to be gay, or transgender, either. I have firsthand knowledge of what it’s like to be me, and I try my best to find the empathy for what it’s like to be * not * me. So in the matters of the existence of others I try to listen instead of speak.
On top of being straight, and male and white, I grew up middle class. We weren’t rich by any stretch, and vacations were not to beaches or far away theme parks but to visit family (and mostly in places far less diverse than my own neighborhood). I spent my childhood almost entirely in Webster Groves, which is now far ritzier than it was in my youth, but it was still a great community to grow up in. Despite my immediate neighborhood being almost entirely homogeneous, my schooling connected me with kids from other neighborhoods, some of which were predominantly Black.
I was lucky to be exposed to, and be friends with, a lot of Black kids growing up. I got involved with sports, and spent time in the homes and neighborhoods of kids who didn’t look like me.
But I still didn’t understand, and don’t really know, what being Black in America is like.
But I’m listening. What’s being said isn’t easy to hear. For the longest time we’ve been told our country is the best and brightest, the beacon on a hill. We’ve got freedom and fireworks and it’s great and everyone loves it so much they’re fighting our crazy immigration system to get in. So how could it possibly not be that way for a large segment of the population?
A significant segment of the American population was enslaved for several hundred years, and then subjected to Jim Crow laws for another hundred years. Even after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Black people faced obstacles in housing and voting, enough for Congress to have to pass several additional laws, basically culminating with laws passed into the late 1970s. But it didn’t stop the persecution. Redlining practices and discrimination still happen in housing and business and student loans.
But it really wasn’t until the advent of the smart phone, giving a camera and access to the internet to every failed police encounter to the people going through the harassment did we start to notice. Even then, it took six additional years of these events being carried out live for public consumption for a lot of us to finally say the very necessary words: Black Lives Matter.
I moved to Ferguson four years ago, a year and a half after Michael Brown was killed by Darren Wilson.
I moved from St. Louis City, not far from where another hot spot of the protests in 2014 took place. I chose Ferguson because we found a great house we loved, and liked the idea of being part of the solution for a town many think is a cesspool (but in reality, it’s a wonderful community — we love it here). Ferguson isn’t without its problems, but we’re working on them and it’s getting better. Just a few days ago I voted for Ella Jones, the first black mayor in the history of Ferguson. Ferguson also has a majority Black city council now as well.
The Black Lives Matter movement has been going on for years and its message has always been the same: please recognize the humanity of Black people. It’s that simple. If All Lives Matter (and they do), then why do we let police kill unarmed, and in many cases, innocent Black men and women and evade charges even when the evidence is plain?
We saw it live in 2014, and at times since, we badly need to reform community policing. People protesting against police brutality have been met with MORE brutality. Nobody in their right mind will say the destruction of property and looting is okay. And as it was 5-6 years ago, the majority of the disrupters have no real investment in the protest. It really hasn’t made a difference if the protests were nonviolent or not, the police in just about every city in the country were ready to bring the violence. If public officials want the protests to die down, confronting the protesters with violence hasn’t been the best answer; it’s instead proven the point.
T. Greg Doucette is a criminal defense and first amendment attorney who practices in North Carolina and Texas, and he’s been tracking the police violence since May 30th. He’s threaded everything on twitter, and it’s astonishing. He’s up to 327 tweets on the thread since he started:
To simplify following the criminal justice news of the last 36 hours, I posted a set of 10 links to police brutality videos on Facebook— T. Greg Doucette (@greg_doucette) May 30, 2020
Can't do that here, obvs
So I'm putting them into a thread
We have needed to do something for a long time, and it feels like we’ve finally reached a breaking point. (Nearly) Everyone agrees racism is bad, so why have we allowed this sort of brutality to exist and go on for so long? We didn’t listen to Black men and women when they told us what happened to them. From slavery to Jim Crow, to brutalistic policing tactics, we can do so much better for our fellow countrymen and women.
Mizzou and the state of Missouri was the forefront of the movement in 2014 and 2015, leadership at the time didn’t handle the protests well. But they’re getting it right now:
All this action and protest won’t mean a thing if we don’t turn this into an opportunity to turn more people into being politically active. The United States has a pretty miserable record when it comes to voting and access to voting, and I’m happy that the head football coach worked with his team to change that.
We need more involvement with each other, and we need more discussion about policy. But where we shouldn’t disagree is on basic humanity.
All Lives Matter, and that very much includes Black Lives. We need to defeat the systemic racism throughout the country, and that’s something I think we should ALL be in favor of. I would love to get back to debating policy issues like how to pay for parks and roads, or the public/private investment into all areas of our lives... but we cannot concede an inch that a Black life in this country is every bit as valuable as a White life (or any color for that matter).
And before you start any retorts, please click this thread on twitter for fact-based information on the some of the casual responses against the BLM movement:
I had a professor who always talked about "the necessity of existence." Basically, some things should be created just so that thing will exist in the world.— michaelharriot (@michaelharriot) June 4, 2020
So here's a thread to RT anytime some1 responds to #BlackLivesMatter with "but black on black crime" like this yahoo. pic.twitter.com/jfOtq9CtsW
I know on this site we mostly stick to sports and general tomfoolery, but it’s hard to ignore this topic. And with so many Mizzou athletes and coaches speaking out about it so eloquently, I felt we should pay homage to their words. If you cheer for these players on the field or court, you should be able to cheer for them off the field of play as well. We don’t have to agree of every topic, but one area we should all agree upon is that we’re all human, and we should have equal treatment under the law and by law enforcement. This is a time when everyone should be able to come together and say: Black Lives Matter.