I’m a very selective church goer. In San Francisco, I only go to church when my friend Marvin is preaching. Marvin is a joy to listen to. He’s got a confident, booming voice. He’s a poet at heart, and his sermons often involve beautiful word choices and a lyrical structure. And his messages make you go, “Hm.” And ask questions. And then more questions. And I like that.
Today’s sermon focused on the Black Lives Matter movement. And Marvin’s time in Ferguson, paying witness to that movement. And how, yes, all lives matter, but right now we need to focus on black lives, because the justice system isn’t.
Most of the times I’ll go to church alone, but the last couple of times I’ve attended church, a friend has come with me. As we were walking home today, we were discussing the sermon. She said that she hadn’t really thought of it from that perspective. I mentioned that the reason that I support the movement is because 1- black lives do matter and 2 – I experience white privilege and it feels yucky.
The time I rode CalTrain from Palo Alto to San Francisco, not realizing I had to tag my Clipper card at the station (there aren’t card readers on board the train). As I stood there on the train, swiping my Clipper card, back and forth in front of the paper Clipper Card advertisement, the ticket taker walked by and asked me, somewhat incredulously, what I was doing. I told him I was trying to pay for my ride. He told me that you had to tag your card at the station, not on board. I profusely apologized and told him I’d get off at the next station and tag my card. He told me not to worry about it, and just to make sure I didn’t tag off when we got to San Francisco. I told him I really didn’t mind getting off at the next station, and apologized again. He told me to please sit down. I sat down, and at the next stop watched a young (possibly Latina?) woman run on board at the last minute. The ticket taker walked through the train, checking for tickets. She told him that she didn’t have time to tag her Clipper card at the station because she would have missed the train had she done so. He told her to wait by the doors and tag her card at the next station. I got up from my seat and stood by her. “The same thing happened to me,” I said. We both got off at the next station and paid for our ride. Did the ticket taker ask me to sit down because he thought I was clueless? Or because of the color of my skin?
Waiting at the butcher counter, and being called to be helped upon before other women waiting also, women of color. I politely say, “I think they were here first, why don’t you help them?” Did the butcher really think I was there first? Or did he call on me because of the color of my skin?
Reading the recent incident about the black women’s book club that was kicked off the Napa Valley wine train for laughing too loudly. Oh, goodness. If laughing out loud is a crime, I’ve got a lifetime of prison ahead of me. I think back to all the times that I’ve been loud (and sometimes inappropriate) in public, and the worst reprimand I’ve gotten is to be shushed. Was it because I was interacting with lenient waiters/maitre d’s/bouncers? Or was it because of the color of my skin?
I’m leaning towards believing it was the color of my skin, in these, and many other situations. These are small, seemingly inconsequential interactions. The thing is, we live in a racist society that allows, encourages even, not only these small inequities, but larger ones as well. The prison populations that are overflowing with disproportionate numbers of black men and women. The unparalleled excessive use of force against black men and women in police custody. The higher percentage of black children that are suspended/expelled from school.
It ain’t right. It’s time for change. This is why #BlackLivesMatter to me.
8 thoughts on “Why I Believe Black Lives Matter”
Racism and white privilege are not simply personal experiences, they are built into systems.
They are. I don’t believe it’s an either/or proposition, though. You can challenge racism when it shows up as a personal experience, hopefully raising awareness and influencing behavior change, and you can confront it on a systemic level as well, challenging our current institutions and lobbying for change.
Thank you for your testimony Lori and for being a poet at heart too.
Just found your blog; seems interesting. Since I don’t travel, perhaps I can live vicariously through your excursions. Thanks 😉
Outstanding post, and it reminded me of this I saw earlier this week (but it’s older than that): http://www.africanamerica.org/topic/joy-deguy-a-trip-to-the-grocery-store—how-to-use-your-white-privilege
Glad we met at the TIki Pub Crawl.
Thanks for sharing this, Jim! Was a pleasure to meet you as well!