The lines above describe to me the current moment, the current Movement, in our country’s, our world’s, history. The first is from Agnes Callanard, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Summary and Arbitrary Executions, recently. The second is from ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), during the 1980’s AIDS epidemic. They both express the perspective that is needed so desperately at this time. Another way to put it is this: “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men (sic – People) to do nothing” – Attributed to Edmund Burke, Irish Statesman. It’s time to speak up.
The protests for Black equality have been going on all over the world for more than two weeks now. They may go on longer. I dearly hope so. We still have so far to go. I’ve rarely been more proud of Humanity than in these times when people of so many different cultures are finally standing up for the Movement for Black Lives. Lives that have been kept down and subjugated for hundreds of years. The only thing that is being asked of us is to listen to and support Black people in being able to live their lives unfettered and free. Maybe now the powers that be will listen too – and, more importantly – Act!
I live in Seattle. If you’ve been following the news you may have heard of the CHAZ – The Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone. I lived and worked on and around Capitol Hill for 30 years. It still feels like my home. The people, the stores, the streets, are all familiar to me. My former home and place of business are both right in the middle of the CHAZ. If I still lived there I’d be out in the streets too. People are calling the shots there now, not the police. I’m so proud of my fellow Seattleites for their willingness to stand up and act for freedom. The times call for civic action, not civic control, not mere words.
But all I have to offer now are my words, so I’m trying to speak them well. That’s why Louie and I painted the sign in the photo above. We put it right on the street so people can see it when they pass by. Because of the pandemic our street has been designated as a no car zone, reserved for pedestrians and non-motorized wheeled vehicle to get some fresh air, so we have a lot of people strolling along it. Our sign is a chance for us to speak our minds to all those who pass by. It’s not much, but it’s a start.
I totally agree with this movement and the protests in support of it. If not for my disabilities I’d be out marching myself. But I can’t, so I write letters and sign petitions, occasionally donate some money, and put up signs on our lawn. We all must do what we can. To do nothing is to shirk our responsibilities as citizens of this country, and of the world as a whole. To do nothing is to be complicit in perpetuating the racist system we live under.
Do you want to be a good person and Act, or to just sit in your easy chair and watch the world go by? It’s your choice – all our choices – to be on the right side of history here. How do you want to be remembered by your children and grandchildren when they ask what you did for the Movement for Equality? Which side do you want to be on?
Racism destroys souls, and not just those of Black and brown folk either. It tarnishes all of us, and makes us act in ways that are less than human. This plays out in so many ways in our daily lives, in ways we don’t even realize. It’s time to wake up and listen to the voices of the oppressed and help them in the ways they suggest to us, not just do what we think we should do. They know what is needed much better than those of us who “won the genetic lottery” and were born with lighter skin.
If you’re not on board with this kind of thinking maybe you should reflect on how racism would affect your own life if you were Black. Walk a mile in their shoes. Imagine how it would feel if you weren’t allowed to eat in certain places or ride on public transit, were cursed at in public and constantly made to feel that you were unworthy of consideration and kindness. Or maybe think about how it would feel if your little brother was shot by an out of control and racist cop, just because he pulled out a cellphone, or had a toy gun. We white folks don’t have a fucking clue.
Educate yourself on the Black Experience. There are tons of good books out there and many movies too. Netflix is showcasing a special Black Lives Matter collection of film right now. Watch some of them. You’ll learn a lot by looking inside lives so different than your own. Stories from real life can help you to understand how it feels to be someone else. Try to see the world from their eyes. It’s a whole ‘nother perspective and one we desperately need. We need to learn more, and do more. It’s not enough, but it’s a good start.
Black Lives Matter!