Tulsa. Charlotte. Terence Crutcher. Keith Lamont Scott. These are national tragedies. It should not be a blow to anyone's pride to admit that this is shameful for every single American still lucky enough to draw breath. It should hurt our hearts as humans and as Americans. I'm embarrassed for us. Truly, utterly embarrassed.
I know so many people who espouse the rhetoric of the #AllLivesMatter movement. Many of these people I know to be genuinely good-hearted men and women, and I've been racking my brain trying to figure out a way to communicate to them the scope of this new Civil Rights crisis in American history -- how we can actually come together to bring about the reality in which all lives really do matter. How do I pass along the truth to my own people the same way I had to learn it myself?
The core disconnect seems to lie in the idea that these Americans believe that those who align themselves with the #BlackLivesMatter movement disagree with the ideals of #AllLivesMatter, or that they are in some way demanding "special treatment." Neither is true. Those behind #BlackLivesMatter want the same basic goal: to see a country where all lives are dealt with in equal measure, given the same benefits, held to the same laws. The difference is that those who stand with #BlackLivesMatter see a country where people of color are relegated to second-class citizen, conditioned from birth to understand that in fact all lives do not matter quite the same. To understand that even when they follow every conceivable law to a T, something as inescapable as their skin color puts their existence in jeopardy.
To those who stand with #AllLivesMatter, I ask you, without malice, to imagine if a family member of yours lost their lives in the way that the men in Tulsa and Charlotte lost theirs. Would you feel like your country honored your equal standing, your unalienable rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness?
I urge you to look at what has happened this past week and internalize that two beautiful, loving men were killed because of misconceptions about their race. I urge you to do whatever you can to help realize a nation in which all lives do matter. All it takes is voicing your discontent in whatever way is true to you. Take to social media, write your congressperson. None of us should be okay with this. If we truly believe all lives matter, it is our civic responsibility to make sure that our government understands that we will not stand for this. Because if we do not, we're failing every truth we claim to be self-evident.
Please understand: I do not intend this to condemn the police, nor am I asking you to do so. I personally cannot fathom working such a high-stakes job, and ultimately these are men and women caught in a political machine stretching far above them. If atrocities like this are occurring all over the nation, it's safe to assume it's a larger issue than a few bad apples -- it has to do with corporatized political system far beyond any of our paygrades. We can't change that right this minute, but we can come together to plant the seeds of change. Instead of drawing sides and splitting hairs, why don't we work toward building a world where that doesn't have to be the case? I openly admit it's idealistic to the point of naiveté, but we ought to at least try, right?
White people, we have to do something about this. And by "something," I mean anything. We are the majority, both literally and in terms of how much attention is paid to our voice in this country. Let's raise our voices, every one, and make it clear that we will not accept this. We must condemn this kind of violence at all levels. Let your government, your families, and your friends know that you do not and will not stand for it.
We can work out the particulars later. In the meantime, let's do our part to keep our citizens alive. The poet James Weldon Johnson wrote, "Lift Every Voice and Sing" 117 years ago. Can we please do that, together, and finally realize this dream we all share in our hearts? Our country asserts ideals unlike any in history -- can we finally live up to them?
White silence is violence.
Haven't we had enough hurt?
Lift every voice and sing, till earth and Heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise, high as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.
Stony the road we trod, bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat, have not our weary feet,
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered;
Out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.
God of our weary years, God of our silent tears,
Thou Who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou Who hast by Thy might, led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee.
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee.
Shadowed beneath Thy hand, may we forever stand,
True to our God, true to our native land.