From One White Woman to Another #BlackLivesMatter

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Look for ways that you are racist, rather than ways to prove you’re not. – Sara Milstein

When you say or read #BlackLivesMatter it does not mean all lives do not matter.

Justice for Breonna
Art by Shirian

If you are enraged about what happened to Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and the countless others whose lives mattered and whose lives have been taken and you want to see justice it does not mean you do not care about your local police officer friend or you don’t understand how complicated it is to be a cop these days.

Can we take a moment to give space to all those who have personally lost a loved one or who are just plain exhausted from yet another life lost or act of violence against someone in their community?

When we see the words #BlackLivesMatter can we say ‘Yes, they do!‘ instead of counteracting or adding “#AllLivesMatter“? Nobody NOBODY is saying all lives don’t matter when they say Black lives matter. The first time I read the phrase ‘all lives matter’ was back in 2014 when I was working at a nonprofit organization in downtown Oakland during the #BlackLivesMatter rallies that were happening right outside my office building. I posted on Facebook about it and a White friend left a comment saying ‘#alllivesmatter should be the mantra‘. I remember that didn’t sit well with me. I regret not saying anything at the time. I just ignored her comment. Ignoring is no longer an option.

#BlackLivesMatter doesn’t mean Black lives are more important than others. It means Black lives matter, too. It is a reminder that Black lives are often minimized or undervalued in this country. It also is a reminder to the rest of us that Black people are more likely to experience racism and brutality from white supremacists (police and civilians).

And, for those of you chittering on Facebook about the riots and not understanding people “destroying their own neighborhoods and communities” you are giving me flashbacks of the discussions around the Rodney King trial! Back in the early 90s, an older White woman colleague I worked with said those exact words to me and even said ‘they should go back to their own country if they don’t like it here’. WTF?! What country did she think they were from. Ignorance at its best. I was much younger and less articulate then but I still knew what she was saying was SO wrong and called her out on it.

“A riot is the language of the unheard.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

And, unheard is what they were.

Colin Kaepernick Getty Images
Colin Kaepernick Getty Images

When journalist who are covering the protests and riots are getting arrested we need to all be concerned about the freedom of speech that is being eroded in this country. Because I am married to a Venezuelan person, fellow American friends often ask me how things are in Venezuela, I tell them we should take a close look at America because we seem to be following a similar path.

The big question for us White people is what can we do to help? Here is what I think we can do: We can start listening more.

If you feel defensive when talking about race with a woman of color or reading about race in a piece written by a woman of color, assume the other person is saying something especially true. That is: use your defensiveness as a Bat Signal, alerting you to your own biases. Sure, yes, of course, the other person may have said something insensitive or unreasonable. But if you want to change the dynamics of the world (reminder: you’re a feminist, so you do), assume your discomfort is telling you something about you, not about the other person. Then use those moments to listen more carefully. – Sara Milstein

We can educate ourselves and begin to understand systematic racism. We can take action and call, text and write letters to our politicians. We can speak up, protest, donate and support the groups and individuals fighting for justice. If you have an online platform, use it for justice.

Here are a few places to get started:

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