“The response of “All Lives Matter’ is not understanding that a social justice movement would not have to exist if all lives were treated as if they mattered equally.“ Sit. With. That.
Nikole Hannah-Jones, an investigative journalist known for her coverage of civil rights in the United States, recently wrote an extensive piece that appeared in The New York Times Magazine. In it she writes:
It has been more than 150 years since the white planter class last called up the slave patrols and deputized every white citizen to stop, question and subdue any black person who came across their paths in order to control and surveil a population who refused to submit to their enslavement. It has been 150 years since white Americans could enforce slave laws that said white people acting in the interest of the planter class would not be punished for killing a black person, even for the most minor alleged offense. These laws morphed into the black codes, passed by white Southern politicians at the end of the Civil War to criminalize behaviors like not having a job. Those black codes were struck down, then altered over the course of decades eventually transmuted into stop-and-frisk, broken windows and, of course, qualified immunity. The names of the mechanisms of social control have changed, but the presumption that white patrollers have the legal right to kill black people deemed to have committed minor infractions or have breached the social order has remained. In a country erected on the explicitly codified conviction that black lives mattered less, graveyards across this land hold the bodies of black Americans, men, women and children, legally killed by the institutional descendants of those slave patrols for alleged transgressions like walking home from the store with Skittles, playing with a toy gun in the park, sleeping in their homes and selling untaxed cigarettes.
Here it is, July 2020, and we continue to see case upon case where a black life has not mattered. There are thousand of names we’ll never know of- we only know of the ones that we’ve been made aware of over recent years thanks, in part, to social media. And despite all this, I still cannot believe how the phrase Black Lives Matters hits a nerve in some of us white people who are quick to point out that All Lives Matter. It’s pretty disheartening to see how twisted and defensive people can get, given the 400 years that carefully crafted systems of racism and oppression have been dehumanizing, destroying, killing, incarcerating, and inflicting racial wounds on people of color.
If we stop, feel, listen, be willing to become accountable for our own learning and unlearning, we will see see how saying “All Lives Matter” is a form of racism in and of itself. It’s called White Centering.
White centering is invisibilized and normalized. We can’t dismantle what we can’t see, so unless we consciously take an active part in learning, unlearning and trying to “get” it right (not “be” right), we will fail to see how these norms further marginalize and attempt to erase Black and Indigenous People of Color. That in itself is a deadly aspect of White Supremacy.
Another dangerous aspect which is at the core of White Centering, White Fragility, White Superiority, White Privilege, White Silence and all matters dealing with racism, is this feeling of being “attacked” some of us white people feel when we are not ready to hold ourselves accountable for how our actions, behaviors, biases, prejudices, stereotypes and the internalized racism we were born into actually harm BIPOC.
We’ve become so accustomed and comfortable with looking away, letting others do the work, or looking at the world with our own set of White lenses, that we fail to see there’s something morally and consciously wrong with how we are personally perceiving equality and justice related issues. We’re unaware of our blindspots. Ultimately, we fail to see how this feeds into the hierarchy that White Supremacy upholds and, therefore, are just as quick to join the All Lives Matter caravan. Or, as we’ve all witnessed on many occasions, a whole lot of silence or spiritual bypassing ensues because God forbid we should feel “uncomfortable.” Remember darlings, silence is violence…as is Whitesplaining!
How have we become so numb to the violence? Are we truly comfortable with the numbness? How is that serving us? How is that serving our health and well-being? How is that serving our society, the world at large and future generations? What stories are we telling ourselves? How are they serving and honoring our ancestors and the work they did in the name of change?
Change and growth are not comfortable. Trauma is not comfortable. Social Justice is not comfortable. Activism is not comfortable. Not getting it right is not comfortable. Speaking up is not comfortable. Feeling frustrated is not comfortable. Constantly seeing BIPOC killed again and again should not be comfortable, acceptable or excusable!
If we were to stop, breathe and tune into our bodies every time we feel “uncomfortable” we will sense different things going on in our body and that’s because our nervous systems are on high alert. The nervous system is sensing for danger, the protective brain takes over, and it’s ready to fight, flee or freeze. It’s important to take a pause here when in this state and check ourselves. Allow ourselves to feel. Allow our pre-frontal cortex to take over. Allow ourselves to question why we are feeling this way. Allow ourselves to put ourselves in another’s shoes. Allow ourselves to open our minds and hearts and be willing to look through another set of lenses… that aren’t White Centered.
Darlings, if there is anything that has become apparent as I continue to learn, unlearn and learn again and again these days, is that proclaiming to be a “good white person” is not enough today. This work we are being called to do is life-long work we need to commit to doing. While I’ve always been saddened to see how some people aren’t committed to self- growth or aren’t willing to keep learning and evolving, I can now clearly see the harm those behaviors inflict on BIPOC when we are unwilling to take personal responsibility for our own anti-racism education. It’s White Apathy at its best!
Instead, we white people have the audacity to feel “attacked” when asked to be accountable for our antiracism education and grow in our understanding of White Supremacy and what dismantling it looks like. We become defensive, silent, or even put an end to the conversation. Why? Because God forbid we should feel uncomfortable!
During this historic moment of our lives, one that will define what kind of white people we were for future generations, we are being asked to put ourselves in uncomfortable positions. We are being asked to do things differently. We’re being asked to question everything. We are being asked to stop making excuses. We are being asked to engage. speak up, and have hard conversations amongst ourselves, our families, friends and co-workers. We are being asked to hold ourselves accountable for learning and unlearning. We are being asked to accept responsibility for being complicit when we didn’t even realize we were doing so. We are being asked to show up. We are being asked to disrupt our thinking and our behaviors in the name of racial equity.
We are being called to accept that anti-racism works starts with us, that is uncomfortable as hell and more complex that we could have ever imagined. Failure to do any of these things just feeds White Supremacy.
Those of you who know me, know that I’ve always turned towards the discomfort. For me, discomfort signals that change is needed. That growth is awaiting. This is a space of possibility, of expansion, vision and alchemy. I tend to thrive in this space. Being committed to life-long learning sets me on fire. It brings me joy. It shakes me up. It’s one of my passions. More importantly though, it humbles me because there’s so much I’m learning and want to learn.
How much time do I have left on this earth? I don’t want to squander it! I know I’m here to make a difference, and I’ve always taken that responsibility to heart. “How can I serve?” is a question I’m always asking myself.
Darlings, as I noted in my previous blog, There is No Neutral, we have knowingly or unknowingly been complicit in the participation of institutionalized racism and systems of oppression that were intentionally created to uphold white dominance. Whether we want to accept it or not, it is truth….an uncomfortable one albeit. Just remember, comfort is not the key here. We have a responsibility to humankind to sit in our own discomfort and unpack layer upon layer of uncomfortableness in the hopes of creating a better world for future generations.
If after reading this blog you still don’t understand the All Black Lives Matter social justice movement, and continue to rally that “All Lives Matter,” I will leave you with the following, which has made its way around social media, in hopes that you will see through a different set of lenses:
- When the Boston Marathon was bombed and everybody’s profile picture changed to “Boston Strong,” nobody said “All Cities are Strong.”
- When the Las Vegas shooting happened, people changed their profiles to “Stand with Vegas.” Nobody said “Stand with Everywhere.”
- Have you ever seen someone counter a breast cancer post with “Wait, what about colon cancer?”
- But for some reason if someone says “Black Lives Matter” it turns into an all inclusive “All Lives Matter,”
- This is not an either/or proclamation. When there is a crisis, we have always rallied around that particular group/city/cause. It does not diminish any other group/city/cause, it just brings awareness and support where it is needed.
- No one is saying all lives don’t matter, but right now our Black friends, families, colleagues, neighbors and strangers need our support.
Are you willing to do the work?
Darlings, I started my blog almost 3 years ago as a way to inspire, love and serve: hence, the name. I’ve always shared resources, practices, and tools that have gotten me through the darkest and most challenging times of my life and that have allowed me to be resilient in the face of adversity and hardship. I’ve shared my stories, life experiences and wisdom gained and have always encouraged the reader to “take what you need and leave the rest.” I will continue to share the work I’m engaged in and things I continue to learn or that call to me. I hope you stay along for the ride, that seeds of change continue to be planted, and that we all collectively and consciously work to create a better and just world for future generations.
May we continue to move forward in love and with intention, curiosity, unity, and hearts and minds wide open, JTC
PS- Shout out to all my friends, family and teachers who are holding spaces for us to dig deep, do the work and engage in difficult conversations. You inspire me!