Dear My People: Black Lives Matter Is Not a Personal Attack

By ALEXIS LEVATO

 Black Lives Matter.

Not black lives matter more, or white lives don’t matter.

Black Lives Matter.

This is not a personal attack against white people. Instead, it is a statement to affirm the importance of a marginalized and violated group. They have been degraded and devalued and continue to face violence at the hands of police, white supremacists and other systems.

It is a recognition of the oppression. A recognition of systemic issues that are so deeply embedded into our culture that white people don’t face.

Often white people will feel attacked, as though recognition of racist systems and their consequences is an attack on their character. We all operate within racist systems that lead to the mass incarceration and violence against people of color. This is the reality that we need to face in order to move forward.

We must recognize the fact that laws unfairly discriminate against people of color. Think about the War on Drugs, which targeted crack cocaine, and compare that with the “opioid epidemic” we are currently facing. Which communities did these predominantly affect? What were the government’s responses? How did this shape your opinion of that community?

Something, such as drug use, becomes criminalized by politicians, the media and the populace when it affects one community (read: black). For others (read: white), we find sympathy and suggest we send them to rehab. This is but one example of what racist systems and policy looks like.

Another is the way police treat communities differently. The fact is, black people are most likely to be stopped, searched and brutalized, if not murdered, by police. The New York Times article “Study Supports Suspicion That Police Are More Likely To Use Force on Blacks,” shows that black people are 3.6 times more likely to face violence from police than white people. The article talks about various cities and sites that sometimes refuse to share data, or find that most often, the force used is found to be excessive. This is because of hundreds of years of criminalization and dehumanization that has created a certain perception of these communities.

This is our reality.

No one is saying that you murdered Philando Castille or Sandra Bland (unless you are the police who actually shot them to death), but BLM is saying that there is a reason that they were murdered. They were murdered because of a racist system.

BLM is saying our reality needs to change.

It is saying that we need to shift our energy from just Band-Aids on a major systemic problem towards a holistic solution.

In recognizing the racism, we recognize the oppression that communities are pleading for us to acknowledge. It also means accepting the value of their voices and trusting what they are telling us.

Instead of becoming defensive when someone says that a comment you made was racist, ask them to explain further what they mean. Trust that they are trying to show you how discriminatory practices have become a norm in our society. When people talk about how policy disproportionately affects particular communities, and therefore is racist, ask them where to find more information.

Instead of becoming defensive and thinking that your ethics are being attacked, trust that they are communicating a reality that you should be aware of too. Respect that their experience is true and significant. Trust that, when people tell you a system is wrong and unjust, they are telling you something important, something worthy of change. 

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Dear My People: Black Lives Matter Is Not a Personal Attack