I’m white. I’ve always been white, meaning I’ve never been anything but white. European mutt, Ellis Island I thank you. Very white, very ordinary, very bad history in the context of equal rights and human dignity. I refuse to pretend those things didn’t happen, and that we can wipe the white board clean of those stories. Our dark stories matter.
I have friends who are black. I prefer to say, African American. I prefer, actually, to call them by their names, or with my usual greeting to people who have graced me with friendship, as in, “Hello, friend!” I value the perspective and companionship of all my friends. I’ve been known to call my African American friends and ask them their thoughts on a matter, a piece of writing I’ve done, or just to learn.
I have friends who are police. I have been known to call them, at random times, about random things, or about matters involving police in the news. I called on one of my police friends two years ago, and asked him what to do when another officer had accosted me in the street for over thirty minutes, calling me names and threatening me. If you think you’re tough, stand in front of an armed man in uniform, who tells you he has complete control to do whatever he wants to you, and you will know your strength is irrelevant at times.
I honor the service of my police friends so much, that I have also been known to call and say things into their voicemail, such as “I am sitting here in traffic, and I see a police car, and I am thinking about you, and how you put your life in danger to protect the rest of us, and I’m so grateful.” (I’m that weirdo.)
So here we are. Things have gotten weird. Perfect timing to be a weirdo. Lines have been drawn. Are you black, or are you blue? And what’s wrong with All Lives Matter? (If you are already disagreeing, and you want to talk about it, let’s get together for a whole, entire bottle of whiskey, and get really drunk and play Nintendo instead, because it’s going to make my head hurt, and so will the whiskey, and you’ll like me better after a night of Nintendo, and I’m not going to convince you without a fight.)
I am hoping to attend a Black Lives Matter march in April. Some of my friends, in my tidy, rural, predominantly white community may not understand why. I want to be very clear–this is why: life is precious, and I’ve never been one to follow the rules dictated by arbitrarily drawn lines. I went to the women’s march, and now I want to see more of the story we’ve all been fed. I’ve actually been told so many stories about Black Lives Matter, that the only thing I know is that there’s a truth hidden in there somewhere. Beneath the media’s story, the detractors’ stories, and the allies stories, there is bedrock, and I’d like to learn a little.
Not all African Americans I know support Black Lives Matter. Not all police I know ride the Blue Lives Matter wave. Most of my friends just want to live their lives, be left alone, to have a good pint, soda, dinner, game night, or cocktail, and to do their work–police or otherwise, as well and efficiently as they possibly can.
Police are people. Each one I know is different. Most police I know don’t want attention. They don’t want accolades. They don’t want to talk about it. They certainly will give you an uncomfortable, practiced smile, or the finger, if you remind them their job is hard and show up to shower them with gratitude. They are doing their level best.
African Americans are people. Each one I know is different. Most African Americans I know don’t want attention. They don’t want accolades. They don’t want to talk about it. They certainly will give you an uncomfortable, practiced smile, or the finger, if you say things to them about how their lives must be so hard here in our racist country, and I, your martyred white friend, am here to shine my healing, witnessing, whiteness on you, all the while insinuating this is some kind of blessing. They are doing their level best.
But there is this Black Lives Matter movement. People love to talk about it, speculate about it, and demonize it. They show me a picture online, proving it is an anti-police movement. All I can say, is that once a movement proclaims itself, and clarifies itself, anyone at all can take that platform and stand on it, and you can’t stop them. If some people have misappropriated the BLM’s platform, and sullied it, then it’s important to call out that they are not BLM.
In short, I’ve heard the whole “f the police” thing for years, from white people. Guess what? I never bought it from them, either. In my opinion, police, and African Americans, are both trying their hardest, to reach down the throat of our history and DNA, and extract the burden of epigenetics, one generation at a time, and symbiotically, in a way.
During the women’s march, a man asked if all us “nice white ladies” would be at the next Black Lives Matter march. Well, I thought, I’ve never been invited to a BLM march. I’d love to go. Every person of color I saw at the women’s march was absolutely buried in a sea of white people. I went out of my way to greet and thank every single one I passed, and it made me think.
In short, I’m tired of division, lines, hype, and stories. I’m tired of half-truths, and I’m tired of one story becoming all the story, and then we panic, and if you don’t “take a side,” then your friends don’t want you any more and you’re standing there wondering what you missed. I’m interested in one set of things, all born from the same thing–human dignity. I’m dedicated to clarifying, leaning into my own discomfort, and modeling–for my children, how to live a life free from the constructs of others, bravely, and with curiosity.
Next time someone asks you, “Are you black or are you blue?” You can tell them we don’t have to be one or the other. We can be, and should be, both.