Black Lives Do Matter
Two people have said to me recently, “Don’t all lives matter? Why do we have to say ‘Black Lives Matter?’”
I just want to say a few words about those seemingly small distinctions. When I walk down the street, walk into a store, drive my car, or open my front door with my house keys, knock on a person’s door for help, I have something my black and brown sisters and brothers do not have. I have a white body. Without even being aware of it, my “white body privilege” makes me feel secure, unafraid, at ease most places that I travel in my everyday life.
This breaks down when I leave the mall in the dark. As I take that long walk from the store to my car in a large parking lot, my female white body makes me feel vulnerable, fearful that someone might see me and try to steal my bags or worse, overtake my female body in some way. My sisters and brothers of color have that feeling of anxiety and fear much of their lives.
Whenever a black professor is stopped while opening his front door and arrested for “Breaking into” his own home (This really happened) when a young black boy, who was let off at the wrong school bus, attempts to get help to call his mother and is shot at by white home owners, (that really happened) whenever a black man or woman is stopped by a police officer and the exchange ends in the person’s death—now we all know how often this happens thanks to cell phone video, more and more white people are realizing what our black and brown brothers and sisters have always known– that a black or brown body can be a dangerous thing to have…
Mr. Riccio proclaims that the Black Lives Matter movement is evil—not only evil but E-V-I-L…the BLM movement started in 2013 out of a cry of outrage when the man who shot Trevon Martin, a child walking home with skittles in his pocket, yes wearing a hoodie, but not doing anything he should not have been doing, was shot to death on a sidewalk near his family member’s home, and the man who killed him was not found guilty of murder, or manslaughter, but in fact was let go with no penalty at all. If that was your child, would you not have been outraged?
That outrage is stirred again every time a man or woman of color is gunned down, without a trial or a jury, by a person in authority. Recently it was George Floyd, over a counterfeit $20.00 bill, and Brianna Taylor, killed while sleeping in her own home, or this week, Mr. Blake, who was not killed, but “only” shot 7 times in front of his 3 young children. If this was a member of your family, would you not be outraged?
Chris Rock, a black comedian, once said, “no white person wants to change places with me, and I’m RICH!” If you understand what he is getting at, you already know that our society is set up to favor whiteness. This short article cannot go into things like red lining, (unfair housing practices) unfair hiring practices, the need for prison reform, the school to prison pipeline, and so many other things that have gotten us to where we are.
Once we have a better understanding of the concerns behind the Black Lives Matter movement, let us embrace the chant Black Lives Matter; let us not just chant, but vote for fairer policies and laws. Let us educate ourselves so that we can see our own unconscious bias, and work toward undoing years of unfair practices that we, by simply being silent, allow to go on. Silence is complicity.
The church which I attend here in West Haven will be studying the book White Fragility: Why It’s so hard for white people to talk about Racism, by Robin DiAngelo, this fall, and I urge you, if you do not know where to start, to start with her book. All lives do matter, but today, Black Lives are in danger. Let us work towards a time when their lives are included in the chant all lives matter.
The Rev. Cynthia Dodd
West Haven resident