5 Things I Need My White Friends and Family To Understand About #BlackLivesMatter

Black people are crying for help. Your help.
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A black, gay Harlem pastor being arrested for civil disobedience after failing to disperse from obstructing a highway entrance during a #BlackLivesMatter protest in Philadelphia on 7.7.16.
A black, gay Harlem pastor being arrested for civil disobedience after failing to disperse from obstructing a highway entrance during a #BlackLivesMatter protest in Philadelphia on 7.7.16.
Erica Mines via Facebook

As a white queer, who has been active in support of the Black Lives Matter movement during the past year, I routinely get questions and “personal opinions” from my white comrades who either A) are blatantly racist or, B) just don’t fully comprehend what is going on. I like to believe most people fall into the latter category.

That being said, I wanted to write this piece to direct these folks to, as many of their “personal opinions” seem to be nothing more than systematically perpetuated statements that are widely circulated by whites to make themselves feel better for ignoring and not understanding the issues that the Black Lives Matter movement addresses:

1) “#AllLivesMatter” Take a moment to reflect and think how silly and obvious that statement is. OF COURSE, all lives matter! No one has suggested otherwise. However, the statistics do not lie and it is very clear that black people are targeted, sentenced, incarcerated, and killed by our criminal justice system at an extremely higher rate comparative to white people. If all you do is stop saying this phrase, that’s a great first step, because we ALL agree that all lives matter.

2) “I don’t see color.” – It’s true, many of you don’t see color on a regular basis in your white, suburban towns. As a person that lives in an urban area, I do see color. Everyday. I see my black friends treated differently by others, including police. I see the things that I openly get away with in front of police that black people wouldn’t. I see my white privilege. It’s very obvious. To say you don’t see color, is basically saying that you don’t see a very real problem that is affecting the black community – that’s a problem!

3) “Black on black crime.” – Yes, crime amongst civilians is rampant and another issue to be addressed, however, how does that have ANYTHING to do with the issues at hand regarding our criminal justice system and the targeting of black people? Can you honestly justify unjust, cold-blooded killings by police because, “black people kill each other?” Please. We can address this issue separately, as is needed, but this statistic does in no way have any effect on what the Black Lives Matter movement is exposing.

4) “#BlueLivesMatter” – As someone who has been active in the movement and also has friends and family members who serve as police, I certainly am not advocating for harm towards police, or total anarchy. People have differing opinions as to how involved government should be in our everyday lives, but the majority of the people I’ve met in this movement aren’t anti-cop altogether. What myself, and most others I talk to, are asking for is criminal justice reform – more community policing and less of the trigger-happy-brotherhood-that-can-do-no-wrong mentality. We are asking for the issue of the fact that black people are disproportionally harmed by the criminal justice system to be addressed. That’s all we want – a first step.

5) “Reverse racism.” – I know many white people like to believe that they were the targets of “reverse racism” at some point in their lives. Imagine living it everyday. As a white person, you have privilege – regardless of how “well-off” you are or aren’t. You don’t have to worry about a rogue officer killing your partner or child. You don’t have to have “the talk” with your kids about police and how to act white. Sure, perhaps you’ve been called a “cracker” by a black person, or had troubles in life, but you need to recognize the simple fact that black people have it much, much harder – simply for being born black.

So, there you have it. Whenever you post #AllLivesMatter, etc., I am going to link to this post. I know it’s hard to believe, because our society conditions us to fear black people from an early age, but the movement is not being “violent” (aside from a few out-lying incidents that aren’t representative of the movement at large) or “attacking” you.

Black people are crying for help. Your help. Your awareness. Your recognition. There is a war on black people in this country and as a queer person, I cannot turn my back. The LGTBQ rights movement was led by trans, black women – they had my back and now I have theirs too. I actually do have black friends and I will not turn a blind-eye on them while they’re literally dying (on video) to be heard.