Black Lives Absolutely Matter!
My Thoughts on: Civil Unrest - George Floyd and other issues
Greetings All, During this time of such considerable uncertainty in the world I believe we are all experiencing changes and challenges that none of us could have imagined. And now witnessing civil unrest in the country. Demonstrations of treatment of African American's at the hands of those who have sworn to "protect and serve." As an individual, I have had to take a moment and evaluate a deep conversation occurring within myself before I could say anything or gather words that might express my feelings, as a Black woman, mother, sister, mentor, teacher and Christian minister. Many words are bandied about today, and I felt the first place to start was with the definition of these words. Some are familiar, used for centuries in this country, and others are coming to the forefront in more modern times. Words like: · Racist or Racism · Prejudice · Discrimination · Bias · Justice or Injustice · Segregation · Ghetto or "the Hood" · Redlining · Voter suppression · White privilege · Systemic Racism · Oppression · Lynching and Modern-day-lynching · Supremacy · Hate crimes I won't define them for you. Hopefully, you will research even those you feel you know and understand because there may be new meaning in light of what is on every television in American. And we know that we have not always been taught in our schools the true meaning or etymology of some of the terms we use so freely. While these are just words, they have become empowered by the ideologies of some in our society, which have made a climate of injustice for some in which daily, they fear for their very lives. I have also been watching what we are collectively living through in the light of COVID-19. We are in a place where economics has replaced public safety, and the simple act of wearing a mask is a point of contention. Combining these two huge issues has caused me to quiet myself and look inside. My faith tradition is Christianity, which arguably has not always presented itself in a manner that would represent its tenants. Still, it is within its context that I formulate my interactions. But I will say this as a defining scripture I Samuel 16:7 which says in part, "…man looks on the outward appearance, God looks on the heart." So I hope that my words will be received and that my heart will come through in these words, which can never explain the depths of my conflict. Having come forward in the past with my own story, which for some stirred their privilege, which in turn stirred some controversy, I know that these thoughts might as well. I have only watched the entire video of Mr. Floyd once; that was enough for me, for I understand most deeply what the discrimination of being black in American can mean. I am a mother, and daily, I am concerned about my one and only child, an African American man. My son visited me earlier this year on a trip in which he flew here but drove 3000 miles from California to Rhode Island to return home, half of that time driving alone. Traversing, some of the most historically racist areas of this country, dealing with known prejudice and knowing that he was alone, as a mother, was a terrifying reality. I didn't rest until he made it back to his home. The existence of something that some never think about and the possibilities some face daily in the same situation is the foundational truth of the "Black Lives Matter" organization. The privilege of race and wealth is also something we must examine. "Privilege" excludes for their entire lifetimes some, from others' daily life time experiences, providing a place that enables some to feel superior. Even within that "privilege," wealth creates an even further divide. So we end up with horrible terms like "poor white trash and n_ _ _ _ _." The real issue, however, is debating over the value of another human being's life, systemic inequality seen in systemic racism and the need to justify that my life as an African American matters, is mind-blowing. And further within that thought is that it (my life) would matters beyond my family, friends, for those of you who have been around me, and I trust, have come to know me. No, we must look broader and more deeply. Let us consider a debate of “Dr. Anita,” a friend, to some a mentor, a pastor (a person of faith), does her life matter beyond this website, or words spoken to people who have no personal stake in her existence? Or shall I ask to replace my name with that of someone you do care about who happens to be of African American heritage. If you have no one whose name or face you can reflect on, ask yourself why? I ask, not requiring an answer for it is genuinely hypothetical, but just as a point of reference, so that we may, through introspection, examine these words and issues. You are free to formulate your own answer, but I would ask you to ask yourself why? Why would the life of one black woman/person be of any interest to you? How would you feel about sitting over your dining room tables and discussing and, at times debating with your family if it is even an issue to you for someone to take my life (or the life of someone you do know and care about)? It is the issues of the heart that is under discussion. Not only are these issues of the heart but they are generational issues of the heart, they are lived bias. Why is it acceptable to suppress my (Dr. Anita's or that person you brought to mind) freedom to vote? Why is it fair to make me (Dr. Anita or that person you brought to mind) live in an area that is unable to get funding and is now considered the ghetto (or the Hood) that you would not want to? Why is it acceptable to dehumanize me (Dr. Anita or that person you brought to mind) to control me? And what is going on in the heart of someone who feels this need to oppress me (Dr. Anita or that person you brought to mind)? The 2008 Presidential election, marked an overt change in the country. We began to see the vestiges of an era many assumed long gone. Racism, prejudice, and discrimination rose again (depicting the president and first lady as monkeys, complete with bananas.) We began to see more openly the murder (crimes of hate) of African Americans, but this time deemed legal through police and, at times, citizen violence. While white hoods now hung in closets, the election of a Black Man became something to fear, and we entered a time of modern-day-lynchings. It was akin to saying you may have put an "n - - - - -" in the white house, but we will still kill you whenever we want, and no one will do anything about it." The increase of instances of death in driving while black or for that matter, shopping while black, and just being black began to rise. Young black boys (who would eventually become black men) were murdered, we know the names. It was as if those whose hearts felt no issue feeling themselves above others, thought it right to kill. Shielded in the silence of a country whose heart took no time to consider what being silent was saying. The unspoken truth was, these atrocities were done so with immunity. When public figures tried to speak out, they found themselves met with consternation (an attitude of indifference, fear) and rebuked attempting to silence them, all but saying, be quiet and let us continue killing you. Cries for help; "I can't breathe… hand's up don't shoot" are irritating, so just lay there, take it and die. These criminal events have happened all over our country. They are not isolated, and profoundly illustrate a problem, which until the video of Mr. Floyd, failed to capture the horror of our country and the fate of the African American in our society. Here we are, amid a global pandemic, and thanks to the Corona Virus and technology, our collective society was still enough to see what has been going on for centuries. And a conversation has begun, or should it be referred to as a debate? What exactly are we debating? Is it my (Dr. Anita's or your friend or loved ones) right to live? And if we are discussing that issue, why are we not, at the same time, continuing to talk about innocent immigrant children taken from their families with no plan to reunite? Their whereabouts only God knows. These children are experiencing what happened to the African slaves who were also removed from their families, taken to a place no one knew of, separated from their culture, and forced to experience whatever someone felt like doing to them. This countries silence has effectively positioning these helpless children exactly where Americans of African descent found themselves and these children undoubtedly will experience lives devalued simply due to who they are. Our country stopped talking about these issues because somehow, when we separate them from us, they become "others" who are not like us. Some in American society can divorce themselves to the extent that they believe, these families don't feel what they would feel if their children were taken, or murdered while the world looked on. Some have no problem with allowing someone else to think, care, and cry for them.
At this moment, voter suppression is still alive and well. Money has been placed above people when everyone knows, dead people don't stimulate an economy, nor can they cast a vote. As one man said, "the senior citizens have lived their lives; let's get this economy back up and running!" Please let us not forget these very seniors are our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, friends, and if we live, will one day be us. We are still debating health care in a time of a global pandemic, we have yet to find out what if any lasting health issues may remain. In addition, the order to remove funding to support the LGBTQ+ population as it relates to medical treatment for Transgender citizens has been signed.
And let’s not forget the discussion of whether millions of unemployed Americans should receive another $1200.00 or an extension of a $600 unemployment benefit. What has happened to the heart of those who are so "privileged" that they can't see that they are separated from "others" by a hair, what will come up that places you in the shoes at this moment you care nothing about? Maybe it is placing your child, in a school with the leadership of this country hiding health statistics so that they can do what they want. The occupant of the White House has never for one day experienced what day to day life of a working person is. Has he ever been inside of a public school? We see images of innocent people, peacefully protesting societal ills, which is their constitutional right and the issues which their hearts have said is unacceptable, tear-gassed, shot with rubber bullets, and herded with horses like cattle. We have seen an elderly and frail 75-year-old man who "fell harder than he needed to" left bleeding on the sidewalk. We have seen a young promising black man tracked like an animal and shot while jogging, while someone in a car caught it all on camera, and that was ok. We saw another 27-year-old shot in the back. It might just be me, but at my age, I realize how young 27 is and how much growth takes place every year, but this young father will not get to be my age. In the past few weeks, we witnessed the anguish of an African American mother at the death of her daughter (a paramedic) killed in her own home, (the person the police were looking for was already in custody.) The issue of a no-knock warrant is currently under debate, as well as reallocating and utilizing funds to broaden services to the community so that our police force has the social service help they need to better serve our communities. Since Mr. Floyd's death, there have been five people found hanging (by the neck) from trees, two of them right here in California, in Palmdale and Victorville, deemed to be "suicides." Amazingly, our focus is being diverted to whether sporting events should resume? Maybe issues like:
Immigrant mothers and children separated from each other who are still in detention centers.
Men deciding a women's right to choose.
Inequity in pay being a real thing.
A generation of children growing up with "active shooter drills."
Unapologetic efforts designed to make it as difficult as possible to exercise the constitutional right to vote with full intentions known is yet another area of debate.
And the most sovereign right of all -- the human right to live, which for some is inconvenient and doesn't matter because it's not me or mine.
Before we allow ourselves to rush to return to life, as usual, let us remember that this is life as usual for some. And let us ask ourselves why it's ok. And what is going on in our hearts that we can look away and let someone else do it? Before my Dad passed away in 1996 he spoke to me often of the need for us as human beings to band together. I wrote down his words as I didn’t understand what he was trying to get across to me so fervently at the time. I found them recently when I was looking for something last week. I believe this was the time he was referring to. He said “Baby, In order for mankind (humankind) to survive, they will have to put aside self-seeking ways, and band together because there is strength in unity.” With that he gave me the words “Respect, Educate, and Protect.” We built an organization to benefit others which has continued since 1994. I wrote a poem a day or two later, that I would like to share with you. Respect me because I respect myself I give respect Therefore I get respect. Educate me in all dimensions. Teach me who I am, What I am, Show me where I go And from where I come. Protect me not With implements of war, But through Love, Care, and Concern Shield me from harm. As a point of clarification, there is one race, not black or white, it is the human race of which we are all a part. Most sincerely and respectfully, Dr. Anita