You may have noticed the "Black Lives Matter" sign that recently appeared on my lawn. My husband requested the sign for us from a co-worker who handles such things, and one day it just appeared, strategically placed for visibility on our high-traffic street.
I'm hoping that you'll drive by and think, "Wonderful! Another ally! Maybe it's time I put a sign on my lawn too."
But let's be real. You might be thinking, "Oh, so they're one of those POLITICAL families."
Or maybe, "Hmmph. Well, I think ALL lives matter."
It's even possible that you're feeling defensive because you imagine that I'm shouting these words at you as you pass by:
You're an oppressor! Everything you have in your life was enabled by privilege you didn't see and didn't even know you had.
You think you've had 'struggles' in your life? Ha! Your struggles don't compare to what black people go through.
You think you've 'worked hard' to get ahead? Yeah right! This life you have was practically handed to you. It's time you acknowledged that you're lazy and entitled.
Everything you've been taught was a lie! You cashed in on a lottery ticket that wasn't really yours and now it's time to give back everything you are proud of in you life. You don't deserve it.
You should feel ashamed of yourself.
The more I read and learn, the more reprehensible I understand this history to be - and the more I realize that this history is alive and well. Twelve Years a Slave leads to The New Jim Crow which leads to Trayvon Martin and Sandra Bland and more recently Tyshawn Lee, the 9-year-old boy murdered by a shot in the back of the head, execution-style, at 4:15pm last week on the south side of Chicago.
I know, white neighbors - it feels really scary to open ourselves up to truly seeing the reality faced every day by our black neighbors and co-workers and friends who have fundamentally different experiences as citizens of this country because they are black. Not only do they have lesser access to public spaces, jobs, housing, and leadership roles, but they are more likely to experience unprovoked violence from the police or be victims of crimes within their own neighborhoods. They're more likely than we are to be incarcerated (for the same crimes) and they are more likely to die young - especially young black men.
As a mother, I worry about whether I'm feeding my kids too much sugar or whether they get enough "free nature play" out in the woods. My primary goal is to help my children thrive. What I don't worry about is whether my babies will be shot and killed if I let them play outside, or whether they will one day be falsely identified for a crime and sentenced to death. Those deep primal fears just aren't part of my daily reality, the way they are for so many of my black sisters.
This weighs on me. It makes me sick and horrified every time I hear of another instance of violence against children, often perpetrated by children and mediated by poverty and institutional discrimination, within the black community. Those mothers carry fear and pain and grief that will likely never touch my family directly.
As an HSP, it's so hard for me to keep my heart open to really feel with these families, because to stay open leaves me vulnerable to system overload and shutting down. And as a white person, it's easy to simply turn away from the reality of inequality in this nation.
But I just can't turn away any more. It's like I'm facing the choice from The Matrix, red pill or blue pill, and I have to decide whether I want to go back to blissful ignorance or to take on the burden of living, eyes wide open, within a corrupt and unjust system.
Four years ago I read this opinion piece in the New York Times, written by Nicholas K. Peart: "Why is the NYPD After Me?" Since then I've committed to never leaving my house without carrying a photo ID, because why should I enjoy the luxury of not being concerned about whether I'll need to prove my identity to the police? It's one small way that I "check my privilege" and keep my heart open.
Sometimes, we need daily reminders to keep us connected to our hard truths and core beliefs. That's why I'm glad that "Black Lives Matter" sign is on my lawn. I need to be greeted with a physical reminder to check my privilege, every time I come home.
Here's what I hope you read between the lines on my "Black Lives Matter" sign -
I'm an ally.
I participate in and benefit from our racist system in all sorts of ways, and it's not fair. I want you to know that I see that, and that I care about being part of the solution.
I am not wallowing in shame for past atrocities committed by my ancestors.
I'm also not ashamed for being so very grateful that I have been able to construct a peaceful, plentiful life for myself and my children.
But I won't turn away as black children down the street are dying and lives are being torn apart.
I believe that all lives matter, but right now, at this point in history, I also believe it needs to be shouted that BLACK LIVES MATTER - or at the very least, spelled out on a sign on my lawn. Otherwise, I'm letting the media tell this story for me - "All lives matter, but some lives matter more than others." That's not the reality I want to endorse.
I'm doing my best to live with open eyes and an open heart. I hope you'll join me.