There is a story in the Bible told by Jesus where he instructs the disciples about the importance of running after and recovering the one lost sheep from the flock. He said that we must go after the one. The other sheep didn't say "What about me? Don't I matter? Don't all sheep matter?" Of course all sheep matter, but in that moment, we have one lost sheep and as a shepherd, we must stop for the one. #BlackLivesMatter is about stopping for the lost Americans, the marginalized Americans. The protests are to call attention to the marginalization of people of colour in this country who are the lost sheep in this parable.
I've written an article called Why Black Americans Are Justifiably Furious explaining how this has happened, and just what is the point. If you are legitimately curious and want to learn a new perspective, then have a read. If you just want to hold the line on your position that hundreds of thousands of people are taking to the streets in peaceful protests for no good reason, then don't have a read, because my article will definitely change your mind.
Some people want to make this all about violence, using the evidence of violence to delegitimize the whole movement. My response is to say that is a convenient narrative to support your position that nothing is wrong, or that nothing needs changing. Pastors and church leaders are often found to be sexual predators, and yet folks still support the church, so can't I support a movement that seeks equal justice even though bad people are doing bad things? Further, there is investigative evidence that extremist groups have infiltrated what started as a peaceful movement and are unlawfully hijacking organized, peaceful events.
Some people want to make this about Trump, insisting this is a scheme motivated and organized by democrats to take down a legitimate President. Does this mean only democrats want social equality and justice? Trump is also a sexual predator who openly admits that he sexually assaulted many women, grabbing them in their lady bits and kissing them before they had a chance to protect themselves. And he said they liked it! He is a gargantuan of a man, and if you're a woman in a dress and heels and someone of NBA stature does that to you, it's terrifying! And he has recently declared in public that he has nothing to repent for. So you cannot go on in criticism about a peaceful protest against persistent inequality and yet throw your undying allegiance to a real sexual predator. It makes you the very definition of a hypocrit.
Some people say, "Well, we are all Americans, aren't we?" "Aren't we?" I reply. The American experience is very diverse. A financially privileged America where you can bribe your way into ivy league schools is very different than than someone who can't afford community college. White Americans repeatedly weaponize the police to call 911 on innocent black Americans who are doing nothing wrong, just because they are evil-hearted white Americans. These types of racially motivated acts of hate happen daily and without impunity, but they are not part of the statistical record. So don't give me your stats in support of your argument that everything is fine and nothing needs to change. Your data doesn't show the whole story and so I don't care about it. What I do care about is the myriad of personal experience and personal stories that I personally know. These all tell a very different story than your statistical reports. I trust my life experience more than your third party produced data. So don't bother throwing it up. Protesting Americans all have this same perspective as I do.
If you have no stories and no experience with this, I challenge you to ask the next black person you see if they have experienced any kind of racial discrimination in their life, or if they know someone who has. Then stay still and LISTEN. Let them speak and tell you something deeply personal. Do this often and I guarantee you will begin to see a very dark and alarming pattern begin to emerge that is not included in your 3rd party statistics. In the days since I released my first article on this issue, I have received innumerable comments and phone calls of support, as well as some backlash. But the calls from my black friends tell me very sad stories of times when they have personally experienced racially motivated hatred directed toward them and their loves ones.
What I have learned during this short time is that I was mistaken. I mistakenly thought that we had dealt with this as a nation once and for all with the Civil Rights Act and Affirmative Action. I thought that because I didn't hear about it, it wasn't happening. And I mistakenly thought that racism in America really only existed in the weird fringe, wacko, white supremacist groups, or in the ocassional rogue person of power. What I have seen during this past week, however, is something altogether different. I have received phone calls from white people in my life blasting me for advocating for black Americans, and when I let them speak, they spew forth streams of hatred specifically directed at black people. Other white folks are really letting it all hang out on social media, calling for the return of slavery, lynching, and a racial war. What I now understand is that the silence I enjoyed during my youth I mistook for reconciliation, when it fact, it was a temporary truce where black Americans decided to go along to get along, and white Americans held their tongue. Meanwhile, the hatred was simmering and stewing just under the surface of American society, quietly spreading like a slow, insidious cancer. Now, all that cancer has erupted onto the surface, and I am astonished.
With the advent of social media, this small group of black American voices can now gather together to speak out more loudly than they could before to tell their stories of suffering. They can now share with the world what is really going on, and they are asking for help. They are asking for acknowledgment of the crimes commited against them as a people, and they are asking for reconciliation by way of equal treatment. They aren't asking to take over every position of power and the enslavement of white people, but only to be afforded the fair opportunity to live in peace and to pursue their dreams without fear of reprisal for the color of their skin. This is a fair ask, and I, for one, intend to do my part to give it to them.
I'm afraid I am only one person, just one quiet voice in a sea of screaming. I have no fame; I have no platform. The media isn't going to ask me what I think or care if I respond. But for that one black person I stop for and listen to, embrace with sincerity and thank sincerely for sharing their story, I might just be what they need to start healing. To be able to touch just one life, to have one opportunity to demonstrate love and appreciation for another when they are hurting, is completely worth the small time and effort, for it brings joy. I urge you to try it, too. I guarantee you will be surprised what you learn when stop criticizing and start listening.