Sometimes I find myself online getting into debates with people over things that mean a lot to me. Like, Black lives matter, not the organization, but the slogan. I have no interest in the group, Black Lives Matter. I’ve never been to their website, participated in any of their protests or donated money to them, but as a Black man, I firmly believe that Black lives matter. Does that Mean I think Black lives matter more than White lives? Hell no. It means that Black lives should matter just as much as White lives and therefore, when Black lives and all lives matter equally, then we can say with honesty, all lives matter.
It’s not just about the recent controversial police shootings and killings of George Floyd, Breyonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, Eric Gardner or Oscar Grant. It goes back beyond the police brutality of Abner Louima and Rodney King. It goes back to the Civil Rights and Jim Crow era, Slavery and Colonialism.
Black and Brown people have been treated differently in America since the beginning when Native Americans were ran from their homes and slaughtered. Many people are quick to say that we have to move beyond slavery, but Black and Brown people are treated differently than their White counterparts even in the eyes of the law, in getting loans, housing, medical treatment and education.
Saying the words “Black lives matter” means that everyone should get equal and fair treatment, especially when it comes to Law Enforcement who have the powerful and often ridiculously difficult job of upholding the law.
We All Have Different Perspectives That Shape Our Reality
When I was debating with people online on different boards and some of them were people I knew that I also know are good people in real life, their views were completely opposite and often disregarding of mine. It took me a minute to understand that they couldn’t see from my perspective. My reality was not their reality.
Like a lot of Black boys who grew up in the inner-city, my neighborhood was routinely over patrolled by police. They weren’t usually there to be friendly, but they were there to harass us, question what we were doing and where we were going as if we didn’t have the right to simply exist in our own neighborhood. We often saw them arresting our neighbors for small offenses, taking our friends, brothers, and fathers away from us. Seeing the police became something we feared, not something that made us feel safer.
Once I started driving, Driving While Black became a real fear. I would get pulled over regularly for minor offenses like a tag light out, window tint too dark, speeding when I knew I wasn’t speeding. I once got stopped for not stopping at a yield sign when there was no other cars coming. The most honest response I got from an officer was, “I just wanted to see what was going on”.
When I was younger it didn’t bother me much, but when I became older, had a professional job, a master’s degree and was still getting pulled over when I went to visit my mother in the old neighborhood, it became annoying and frustrating. I never got a ticket during those random stops, nor did I ever fear for my life, but I definitely felt harassed.
I’m a very mild mannered person. Not everyone is like that and while I know how to conduct myself when stopped by Law Enforcement, there are others who have been harassed and annoyed to the point that every stop feels like disrespect and provocation. Those are the encounters that immediately become more dangerous, especially when you mix testosterone, suspicion and fear on both sides.
However, me trying to explain why so many Black and Brown people are weary of the police to my White coworker who has never been harassed on a regular basis by Law Enforcement or grew up in a neighborhood overly policed, is pointless. They haven’t lived or experienced what I have. They were happy and smiled and waved when they saw the police. They felt safe, not scared. And yes, you can be harassed and stopped by the police even when you haven’t broken the law, I have been dozens of times and I have never been arrested.
Some people were fortunate enough to grow up in a totally different reality where the people who are paid with our tax dollars and have sworn to serve and protect, actually do that instead of hassle, abuse and kill their loved ones.
I can never get them to see the world through my lenses and the lenses of many other Black and Brown men and women. To them, my view is distorted, so I am trying to no longer argue or debate with them, especially when it’s obvious that they refuse to even try to see things through my perception.
I believe every life is equally important, but Black lives are the lives that need saving at the moment from those who are supposed to protect us. I support good, fair and well trained Law Enforcement all day everyday, but I stand against racism, prejudice, untrained and bad policing equally as strong.
I want our country to come together and at least attempt to see each other’s perspective before we let the media and politicians tear us apart.