The Great Divide

police lives matter, Black lives matter, Black Pride, Blue Lives Matter, race relations, racism, Institutionalized racism

A local police officer in my area died recently and it was a terribly tragic story. He was a war veteran, a husband, a father of two young children…it was the kind of story that makes your heart wrench. I felt for those involved when I first heard about it. I thought, “How sad!” ” What a shame!” “Those poor children!” It was a senseless loss of life. I hate senseless loss, and this one from some lunatic who got a hold of the officer’s gun. It was just such a shame.

As the days went on, I saw the expected outpouring of sadness, shock and condolences in my community. It seemed I couldn’t go anywhere without seeing the color blue, flags, ribbons, charities, so many acts of remembrance and honor for this man. He deserved every bit and more. I knew this…but in my spirit, something was becoming unsettled. I couldn’t put my finger on why, but I began to feel resentful of the concern and support I was seeing. Then I turned around and felt incredibly guilty about that resentment. As much as I tried to perish the thought, I couldn’t help wondering, as I looked at a “Blue Lives Matter” sign, why does no one in my community seem to give a crap when one of MY people is murdered senselessly?

Now, maybe to some readers that might seem petty. “This man died tragically in service. Why do you feel the need to bring up some kind of ‘Black Lives Matter’ agenda?” I imagine them saying. Well…because it applies. People act like there’s this Great Divide when it comes to Black people dying on the streets. As if, we had it coming while everyone else is an unfortunate victim. It’s the classic “Us” vs. “Them” mentality. But if I’ve learned anything from the past few days, its that we’re not at all different. We all feel and hurt the same, and if that much is true, then why are we being treated differently? The hard truth is, in my mostly White, slightly more conservative area, #BlackLivesMatter is met with indifference and sometimes even with aggression. I could very easily imagine some vandalism issues if a Black Lives Matter sign or Black Pride fist had been hung in solidarity following the deaths of Eric Garner and the like. One woman went on and on to me about this officer’s death and I sat there in silence because I couldn’t help but remember her own silence about Trayvon Martin and her discomfort when I brought up how sad it was, as if she didn’t want to speak her mind on the subject. I know many people like this, people who are outraged by one scenario but not the other. My question, and that of many others, is WHY?!

My community was so affected by the recent death of this officer because they felt a common connection to him. It was one of their own. Their protector, a local man at that, was lost and it was violently unfair. Is it hard to understand then, how I, as a Black woman, feel that same connection and that same sadness when I see an unarmed Black man gunned down on the street? When I read stories of Black children threatened with guns to their heads by the same police who are supposed to protect them? More to the point, if I as a Black woman can feel sadness and sympathy for this poor officer’s tragedy….why can’t some of my neighbors and the rest of the “All Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter” advocates around this country, have that same sympathy for my people? Why is it ok to so many that we are disproportionately incarcerated and even killed on the streets in staggering numbers? Why, in 2018, do people of color still have to remind so many White people that we are one of you too? that we MATTER?

Black Lives Matter was started to bring light to police brutality and fight for change and against racial bias in our criminal justice system. “Police/Blue Lives Matter” was only created to be a counterargument to the former. There is no difference in loss between Black or White, Officer or Civilian, and this divide we’ve created is imaginary. Wrong is wrong, justice is justice, love is LOVE and we are all humans, first and foremost.  I am not angry at my community’s love and support for the fallen officer. I’m proud of them. It proves they are more than capable of solidarity and empathy. I’m angry that I don’t see that same love all across the board. It’s the overwhelming failure in understanding, the lack of humanity, the insane disconnect in this nation that’s agonizingly painful for me to experience daily. If you have a Police Lives Matter bumper sticker, why not a Black Lives Matter one right beside it? One is ok, but not the other. That is my issue in a nutshell. That officer should not have lost his life that day….and guess what? Trayvon Martin shouldn’t have died either. Philando Castile should not have died. Nia Wilson should not have died and Tamir Rice most certainly should not have died. Rest in Peace and God Bless Them All.

**Further Information: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/admist-the-escalating-racial-relations-in-america-it-doesnt-have-to-be-blue-lives-vs-black-lives
***Image taken from http://www.theodysseyonline.com

Rejoice

This poem was written in 2008 right after I found out that President Obama had won the presidential election.  I was 18 and had just started attending an HBCU, Hampton University, and it was my first time voting.  I’ll never forget that moment the announcement was made and how the street in front of my dorm building filled with Black students in celebration that their president was Black, that feeling that something historical and incredibly monumental had been achieved.  Every once in a while, I come across this poem and it always gives me a sense of pride and hope….Because thats exactly what I felt back then. I’d like to feel that way again right now. So, I thought I would post it here, a permanent reminder for myself and others that HOPE is always right there.

Lift every voice and sing,
Lift every voice… and sing.
I never understood the meaning of those words until tonight.
You see those words signify that we won the fight.
It means that when I feel my heart wrench and tears swell up in my eyes, that for the first time it’s out of joy and not despair.
The joy in the knowledge that we’ve won the fight.
The joy in the knowledge that when the young black people came running by the hundreds chanting and screaming, OBAMA! OBAMA! That they weren’t just screaming for Barack but for every one of us.
For every African princess torn from her homeland,
For every child born a slave not knowing their worth,
For every man who fought for his freedom and that 40 acres and a mule,
For every grandparent who marched beside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,
For every Black boy who followed the wrong path believing he could do no better…
Our rejoicing is for you…And I cry, I cry.
I cry for how far we’ve come, out of the depths of oppression.
I cry for what we are, a people who cannot be chained down.
I cry for where we will go, into a world of equality…
A world where Black, White, Purple, Blue all come together and are one,
and I cry…
I cry, I scream, I shout, I stomp…
I lift my hands to the heavens and I rejoice,
I rejoice that my children will open their books and see a black face amongst endless clouds of white,
I rejoice that we have received the proof that our people have overcome, and will overcome every obstacle in our paths,
I rejoice,
as I lift my voice,
and I sing,
until the Earths and the Heavens ring…
FREE AT LAST, FREE AT LAST,
THANK GOD ALMIGHTY, WE ARE FREE AT LAST!

-Risa Llanah