Thursday, July 14, 2016

Letting "We are equal" be the beginning, not the end of the conversation.

Growing up, I lived in a community that was incredibly white and wealthy.  I guess that same neighborhood has diversified up a bit in recent years, but in my elementary class I remember one black kid.  This is out of 4, 30 person classes for the entire 1st grade.  I don't think he stayed with us for the whole 6 years of elementary either, which means we were probably down to 0 at one point.

I read the Addy books, and I was taught about the civil rights movement and we honored MLK day and I knew there was a history of poor treatment of black people, but I figured it was all in the past and hardly anyone did stuff like that anymore.

I was pretty darn ignorant, and I stayed with this belief system for quite sometime.

I remember a conversation in high school about interracial marriage, where someone pointed out that there can be a lot of cultural challenges?  What?  This was news to me, because I never knew there were any cultural differences to begin with.

For all of my life, I was taught to believe that black people are equal, the community I grew up fostered this belief the best they knew how.  I don't know anyone I would have to convince that this is true. I think people exist like that out there, but for good or for bad they are not in my sphere of influence.  However, this belief system came from white people with similar experiences is to mine, so naturally it missed a big part of the story.

I missed the experiences that black people have today.

This is to say that the only experiences I saw were the black people I knew on TV.  One was a cop, and one was a doctor and they had families that seemed very similar to ours.  Other than the color of their skin, I figured their lives were exactly the same as mine.  I didn't think about why, if that was the case, were none of them living in my community.  

I wasn't taught about generational poverty, culture, ethnocentrism, oppression.  I wasn't given role models of color, I didn't celebrate traditions that included other histories besides my own.

I think a lot of people are in the boat I use to be in.  They believe all people are equal.  This a great thing to believe, but quite simply not enough.  We need to remove ourselves as much as possible from our own bubble.  We need to hear other people's stories.

It took years and time for me to do that.  I made friends outside my social circle, I listened, I read, and I still have a lot to learn.

Last fall, I remember getting pretty riled up about threats to protest a marathon last fall, but I listened to what people had to say and I realized a marathon cut short is much different than a life cut short.  (Also, only fair to say, they did not do what they threatened)

The BLM tactics don't always make sense to me, but I'm willing to ask myself why that is. I have not lived that oppression, I do not have my own life to fear, I have a lot of resources and education to make change that others may not.  It is my belief that those who have those experiences don't deserve to be evaluate from afar by the mainstream media.  I encourage you to ask these questions.

What are the stories of people involved?  
Alton Sterling and When Black Lives Stop Mattering by Roxane Gay (super awesome and smart lady)
The problem we all live with (2 part series on This American Life Podcast)
A Letter from Black America.

What are the actual goals of the movement?  
The actual demands of the movement may be things you can support.

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