Acquiring a perspective on #BlackLivesMatter
by Katherine HawkerSelf
Last night (July 28, 2015) we were in Ferguson at the City Council meeting. I was sitting with movement friends wearing #OurSignaturesMatter t-shirts. The effort to #RecallMayorKnowles was rendered 27 signatures short after the city invalidated more than 300 (of the 2000) signatures.
As I sat in the meeting, I was wondering about the nice white residents who claim they want to live in a racially diverse utopia.
Then a frail elder came to the podium to speak. His concern was for the Starbucks that will built behind his home. He had clearly done hours of homework with the math of elevations and sight lines. He'd concluded that his view (and presumable his property values) were in jeopardy. He was appealing to the city to reconsider the permit.
As he spoke with passion and preciseness about sight lines from his driveway, I sat beside a young Black leader who has spent much of this last year (and likely the ones before as well) in a struggle for life itself. As I sat between the old white man with property concerns and the young Black man with concern for human life, I felt the cognitive dissonance.
Clear in the #BlackLivesMatter movement is that this is not an ideological debate but rather a struggle for the right to breathe. The movement is not a struggle for a just economics but rather for the right to walk home from the store. The movement isn't even about police, but rather about the right to be alive on the other side of an encounter with police. The movement is simple and profound: Black lives matter.
Night after night, march after march, stand off after stand off, I have borne witness to the intricate web of laws and economic polices and social customs that make it easy for my middle America white self and at the same time utterly life denying to Black folk. We can stand side by side, we can share meals and laughter and tears, we can even work the same jobs and have the same titles. But we will not be treated the same by the systems. Not by the bank, not by church, not by the stores, not by our employers, and most frighteningly not by the police nor the system we would call justice.
When a frail white elder is more concerned about property value than blood spilled, we have a problem.
When hundreds of signatures are invalidated to render a recall petition 27 names short, we have a problem.
When we have come one full year since #MichaelBrown's death with no indictments and no substantive change, we have a problem.
#whitefolkwork is breaking the silence, naming the disparity, noticing the placement of property over people, and demanding change. Utopia is no place, and true racial diversity cannot exist without a leveling of the playing field.
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