Black lives matter.
How do you participate with this statement? Are you provoked by it? Inspired by it? Confused, or bored, or disrupted by it?
Notice what happens in you when you read that simple three-word sentence back. Say it aloud. Notice what it does in you when you see it spray-painted in an underpass, or posted next to the image of a protest. What happens in you when you hear it shouted from the lips of a black person? A white person?
Something is happening in you. Right now. This is a statement of something of our times. There is no non-response to Black Lives Matter.
"What do you think...?"
A friend, voice weary with confusion and uncertainty, asked, "When people ask you what you think of Black Lives Matter, what do you tell them?" She was just off a call with a diverse group of women who had weighed-in heavily on many sides of the conversation. As the 50+ white woman in the Zoom room, she was called upon to offer a response. She felt she'd fallen short.
And she probably did. It is likely that I would have, too.
I am a straight, white woman. Moreover, I was born into the privilege of Western Canadian economic stability. The luxury of attending school was a given. Grade school. Post secondary school. I can walk into any bank and, even as a soon-to-be-divorced dependent, secure some kind of loan or credit card. My greatest worry on the public opinion stage? I am invisible because I am so very white, and so very status quo.
Any trauma or hardship that I have "suffered" has been relative. My felt needs have always been met, and I have never been turned away or overlooked because of my ethnicity, my race...the color of my face.
What do I think? I think I'd best be very, very quiet about things I cannot begin to understand.
So, I shut my mouth...but live aloud
'Best hold my tongue on matters of bigotry, racisim, segregation...sort of. My time is not well spent storming on social media, waving a placard, or verbally bludgeoning one who disagrees with me.
But it is absolutely not okay for me to remain complicit in my silence. To participate in hate, exclusion, discrimination by my non-response.
My path? The response of a lifetime to these issues? My roots are White. So, so white: religious. Exclusive. Privileged. Taught to look down upon. Filtered history books. Us-and-them thinking. I was a wee girl when I began to notice the jarring inconsistencies of my existence and their overlap in the lives of others girls. A niggle of indignant confusion was stirred. I honored that niggle...fed that niggle...welcomed the fury of injustice and "...that can't be right...?" wondering.
And, at an early age, determined that, however ignorant I might be, I would not shrink from listening. Learning. Attempting to understand. I read stacks of books on slavery, injustice, genocide, subjugation, persecution.
Recognizing the commonality I had with the "bad guys" in these works, I identified myself with the perpetrators of such horrors. I became ever more awake to the privileged life I'd had the happy luck of being born into.
And I set my mind to learning. My arms to opening. Moreover, my heart to humbly loving. All. Always. Sometimes with words, but mostly, simply by choosing to live my life in a way rich in kindness. My intention is to offer dignity through my actions.
But bigotry, racisim, bias, hate? They're in me. I may tell myself I'm inclusive because I have no problem at all with embracing the stories and truth and beauty of my Muslim friends. Further, I openly affirm and adore my LGBQT+ loved ones. But I know this of myself: implicit bias sneaks up on me (in me) all of the time.
What's a lily-white white girl to do?
I may not use my physical voice to make statements of my belief on matters of racial equality, systemic violations of all-things-human rights where black people, indigenous people, LGBQT+ or female or poverty-stricken people are concerned. But I will live my small, ordinary life in an loving way. I will be mindful of where I shop. My interaction with all people, across all demographics, will assume the inherent value of the human in front of me. Furthermore, I will consciously and intentionally be mindful of the inequality that my fellow humans face into daily. And I will pay attention to the ways in which I (unfairly, ignorantly, presumptiously) set myself apart from my brothers and sisters on the planet.
One human community. All wishing for love and belonging. Each of us yearning to feel secure and purposeful. Every one awaiting the invitation to simply be our most vibrant Self.