Friday, July 8, 2016

What to say? Do Black Lives (really) Matter?

Everyone knows by now that, within 24 hours, two black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, have been shot and killed by police officers in Baton Rouge and the St. Paul area, respectively. And if this is news to you, then get on it & read up!

I have spent the last two days trying to process this. I don't even know what to say anymore.
Roxane Gay wrote this in the NYT before Castile was killed.

"I don’t know where we go from here because those of us who recognize the injustice are not the problem. Law enforcement, militarized and indifferent to black lives, is the problem. Law enforcement that sees black people as criminals rather than human beings with full and deserving lives is the problem. A justice system that rarely prosecutes or convicts police officers who kill innocent people in the line of duty is the problem. That this happens so often that resignation or apathy are reasonable responses is the problem."

I have spent the last two days trying to process this.
I have been unable to tear myself away from my Facebook news feed. I keep reading articles, personal essays, watching live feed videos from people in the Black community. I feel grief, outrage, and helplessness. 
I have spent the last two days doing nothing but read about people's grief and rage. I have shed tears at my computer while watching live-feed videos of black women --why is it always the women who must speak? Why the burden put upon them/us?-- and have been turning over all of these things, all of this information in my mind.

I am also mindful of my position as a Filipina. Yes, I am a woman of color, but I am not a black woman who has to teach her children to "comply" with police. I am not a black man who feels danger at the sight of a cop car or an officer in uniform. It is different to be black in this country. I may be marginalized, but I am not black. 

Still, I am an ally. So what can I do?

First, I gave space to my black friends. They are tired. They are tired of grief, of rage. They are exhausted. They want to be left alone. They do not need someone asking them "what can I do?". They need the space to fucking cry. You're all adults. Google it, people.

Second, I have posted to my Facebook page anything and everything that can bring some education and understanding to those "friends" who are clueless. I don't have very many of those... and even if I'm preaching to the choir-- it bears repeating. We need to talk about this. We need to talk about this in the open. To get it out in light so that we can address it, so that maybe we can see something change. There's only so much petitions will do --and please, still keep doing that! And yes, monetary donations to the Black Lives Matter movement or other social justice organizations are helpful. We need money to make the gears turn. But the bottom line out of all of this to talk to one another, to really talk and to actively listen --to really, truly, genuinely LISTEN to what is happening. If you have a platform, use it. Speak out. Say something! And then to take action. No matter how small. It has to start somewhere.

But at some point, I need to leave my computer and live my actual life. I need to feed my family, to take care of them, to play with my kids, to do my best to raise kind and loving human beings. I need to be IN the world, to be present IN it.

And so I leave you with this: don't be afraid to talk about the difficult things. Bring big love and plenty of compassion. Do what you can to make the lives of others just a little bit better, a little bit brighter. Practice self-care. And be IN the world -- don't just watch it go by.