Black Lives Matter. Politics Does Not.

You can read my pointless pontificating below, or you can just click this link to check out some actually useful information on how you can help the ongoing fight for justice and racial equality.

Or check out this link to a Google doc with resources and ways to take action.

Finally, listen to black people and elevate their voices. They’re the experts here. They’re the ones that need to be heard. I’m white. You can ignore the hell out of me. In fact, I’d implore you to.

I haven’t been especially vocal about what’s been going on lately because I haven’t felt like I had anything I could add to the conversation. What can I say that better, smarter, more aware people haven’t been shouting from the rooftops for centuries?

Being mean is wrong. Being kind is right. It seems like such a stupid argument to still be having. But here we are.

I don’t like to offer platitudes or rhetoric. In fact, I find all that unhelpful and patronizing, especially coming from a white person who, let’s be honest, has done nothing particularly actionable to further equality among the races. I feel selfish and cowardly just writing this. Who am I helping whining about how hard this is for me? What does this do for people who are actually suffering?

It does nothing.

Nothing we’re doing is accomplishing anything, I think. We’re all just angry and scared. We shook the Coke bottle too hard and it exploded. Violence became the answer by process of elimination.

This isn’t just one moment in history. This is the tumbling of dominoes we’ve spent the entirety of American history setting up to fall. America wasn’t built on principles of freedom and equality. It was built on the backs of slaves and held together by chewing gum and paperclips.

I don’t even think this is just about race (though race is so deeply woven throughout that it cannot be separated). It’s about class. It’s about gender. It’s about geography. It’s about identity. It’s about a government that no longer works for its people because we’ve spent decades designing it not to. It’s about how we’ve collectively been living in two completely different countries under two completely different sets of rules and how that system was never sustainable.

Slavery never works (just ask the American South). Siphoning money to the aristocrats never works (just ask the French). And if I’m honest, I don’t think what we’re doing now will work. After all, if rioting did work, would we even be here now? Or would this not have been resolved with the murder of Michael Brown? Or Sandra Bland? Or Tamir Rice? Or Trayvon Martin? Or Martin Luther King Jr.?

I will always stand on the side of equality and justice. I stand by my black cousins today, tomorrow, and forever while they fight for equality, and I mourn each and every loss with them. And I don’t mean to dismiss or speak negatively of the way protestors are expressing their pain. I understand that rioting is the language of the unheard. I understand how we got here. And I understand that it is not my place to tell black people how to fight for their rights. That’s not what I’m trying to do here.

The point I’m trying to make is that I’m grieving for humanity that it’s come to this, or that it’s always been this way, I suppose. That here we are, in the middle of a pandemic the likes of which we’ve never seen before, and people still have to go out by the thousands to protest their right just to exist.

That the police state the American government has built up around us has no qualms shooting down innocent people with billions of dollars worth of anti-riot equipment but can’t even get masks and gloves to doctors treating victims of COVID-19.

I can’t help but think back to a quote I heard somewhere, that if we all stood still for four weeks, the novel coronavirus would be eradicated for good. I don’t know how true that is, but I think about it constantly. How if only we could collectively work together on one thing for one month for the good of our whole species.

I really thought COVID-19 would be our common enemy. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. But we just hate each other too much, don’t we? We’re too busy fighting each other to notice the bigger picture. We’re too busy dividing up our species into subcategories when we are really all the same.

You never see this problem with dogs. An Irish Wolfhound doesn’t discriminate against a pug. They just see another dog. A potential friend.

I’m getting into hippie-dippy territory here. Let’s refocus.

Being Part of the Solution

I don’t want the fight for equality to stop. I want everyone to have the justice and equality they deserve. I want the human race to be an enlightened, peaceful, and cooperative one. My career thus far has taught me that one, we’re capable of it and two, it’s in our best interest to aspire for it.

But a solid 10+ years of being a cynical asshole has also taught me that, in our corrupt capitalist world, there is only one way to get what you want: money. Money talks. Bullshit walks.

If we want to affect the changes we desire, we have to hit people in the wallet, because that is the only place they’ll actually feel it. You cannot appeal to the logical minds and emotional hearts of corrupt people and systems. Those parts of them atrophied ages ago. Money is the only thing that works.

It’s a simplistic example, but if you want police officers to stop killing innocent black folks, you have to punish them financially. If you want police officers to start implementing compassionate community policing practices, you have to reward them financially.

It’s the same method with all things capitalism. Take away money from the things you oppose. Dump money into the things you support.

Vote with your dollar. It is the only vote that counts anymore.

Shop black businesses. Donate to nonprofit organizations that are helping heal black communities. Support local and state elections. Don’t waste your time with the federal government. We don’t have a federal government anymore. I’m not sure we ever did.

What if I Have No Dollars?

If you’ve no money to offer right now, there are other ways you can help, primarily through education and amplification.

Listen to black people. Read black literature. I really enjoyed So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo when I read it last year. I’m currently reading The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois on Serial Reader. If movies or TV is more your thing, I recall 13th being popular when it came out back in 2016.

And don’t just listen. Share what black people are saying. Don’t add your commentary unless it is absolutely necessary (e.g. updating time-sensitive information). Share resources.

And for fuck’s sake, do not mindlessly share photos and videos of senseless violence and mayhem. All it does is incite more anger and potentially expose innocent protestors to future police fury. Choose what you share carefully and make sure you’re sharing it to be genuinely helpful, not just to be angry or make a snappy comeback. Now is not the time.

Check in with your neighbors, especially your black neighbors. Don’t ask them how they are—you’re seeing the same news, you can guess they probably feel scared and like shit—ask how you can help them. Ask them what they need from you. And then respect their answer, even if it’s for you to get the hell away from them and give them some goddamn space.

Take care of yourself. Like my mom always says, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Take some time off social media. Play Animal Crossing. Skip work to write whiny blog posts. Do whatever you gotta do to restore yourself.

And, above all else, be kind. Being human is hard but it’s the one thing about us we can’t change. Your political party isn’t in your DNA. You won’t find any indicator of your race in your bones. Biological markers of gender are unreliable. Everything we know about ourselves is open to interpretation and change but one fundamental truth: We are human.

We are all human. For better or worse, we are human.

Be good. Stay safe. Take care of yourself. Cherish life.

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