When I first started blogging, I found myself in a community called Arkansas Women Bloggers. It was new for me, to be part of such a group. And boy, did I feel like an outsider.
I wasn’t a wife. I wasn’t a mom. I wasn’t a craft blogger. I wasn’t a food blogger. It seemed like there was no one else in the group who blogged as I did – without focus, without a clear purpose, without a real point of view.
Many times, many more than I am proud of, I found myself resenting the women in the group. I sat through workshops and sessions where women exhorted each other to “find your voice” because “your story matters” and my first, uncharitable, gut reaction was some variation of this:
How in the world can a woman who is happily married, with kids she loves, a good job, a huge house, and perfect hair, claim that she isn’t fulfilled? She has everything…why does she need to “tell her story” and “feel validated?” I am ALONE, I have no kids, no partner, I do everything myself…why is SHE claiming my space…and why does her story matter more than mine?
I am not proud of this reaction. But I am human, and humans are flawed, and therefore I understand it. And I know that I have to fight like hell to change my own mind, because here’s the thing: this might be my gut reaction, but that doesn’t mean it’s right.
Donald Trump is a master at manipulating this part of our human psyche. He plays to it; sure, it feels good to blame immigrants or Muslims or political correctness for all that is wrong in your life. But that doesn’t mean it’s true. And it doesn’t mean it’s right to do so. That’s why we have the ego and the superego, if you believe Freud.
I’m spending all these words on this because I’m trying to find a way to talk about Black Lives Matter.
First, a confession. I’ve been unwilling to write about this because, well, I’m scared. Because I know that people I care about who are reading this might disagree with me. Because we don’t talk about “the politics”. Because it’s too divisive, too hard.
But here’s the thing. I may be scared of talking about this, but I am not scared of dying if I get pulled over by the police. And at this point, this is about more than politics. This is about life. I didn’t go to college and read books and work hard to be a better person just to clam up because I’m afraid of a little confrontation.
So let’s talk about Black Lives Matter. As a marketer, I’ve gotta say that a really good tagline shouldn’t need to be explained as much as this one is, but this isn’t an academic exercise.
First, it’s worth pointing out that many caring, decent white people have a really hard time knowing what to do about discussing race. I’m not looking for pity in that statement – I’m just saying it’s true. I have read several dozen articles over the past few days about how I, as a member of white America, should be responding – they are all different. So there’s that.
2nd, most us white folks cannot truly place ourselves in the position of our black friends and colleagues. We simply can’t, because regardless of our own struggles and triumphs, our skin color has given us certain privileges in today’s world. We can do our best, we can have empathy, but we will never really understand it on a visceral level.
And finally, let’s be totally honest here. When talking about horrible things like shootings and violence, the gut reaction to #blacklivesmatter, if you’re not black, could very well be “sure, but doesn’t my life (or the life of my friends/family) matter, too?”
Let’s go back to my blogging example. My first reaction to being a part of that community was selfish. It was based on a gut feeling; if someone else’s story matters, than that somehow means that mine doesn’t.
When you think about this in terms of blogging, that reaction seems pretty silly. And luckily, the story doesn’t stop there. I was able to recognize that someone else telling their story doesn’t hurt me; that both of our stories could matter, even if hers was the one getting all the clicks.
It’s the same with Black Lives Matter, although in this case, we’re not talking about blog stats; we’re talking about people’s LIVES.
So when I say that I believe that Black Lives Matter, I am not saying everyone else’s lives don’t. OF COURSE I’m not saying that, and neither are the majority of the people who are saying it.
I am acknowledging that many black people still face a society that hasn’t fully welcomed them as equals.
I am acknowledging that my friends, who are raising black children, have to teach them what to do to not get shot if they get stopped by police. Let me say that again. I have friends who are teaching their kids to never put their hands in their pockets when talking to the police. This is real…and it’s not ok.
And let’s just be clear on this. I am able to do all of this and also mourn the police officers who were shot for doing their jobs two nights ago in Dallas. I am able to mourn the soldiers who lost their lives all across the world as they serve in America’s military. I am able to mourn those fighting disease and hardship. I am able to honor all of those people for their heroism in the face of terror. I am able to hope that we can work to make things better. I am a human being, and we humans really do have the capacity to hold more than one thought in our heads at any given time.
I wish we didn’t have to, because honestly, it hurts to have all of this anguish and fear and despair in there.
But we have to try.
So I’m going to learn more about how the police work.
I’m going to not be afraid to tell my black friends that I stand with them and that I want to help.
I’m going to acknowledge that I might not say or do the right thing. My first reaction (and my 2nd, and 3rd) might be wrong.
But I am not going to let that keep me from trying.