#BlackLivesMatter—this includes black straight men and women, black transgender men and women, black gay men and women, as well as black children playing with toy guns who are followed, beaten and shot dead by armed civilian vigilantes and police officers. All of these black lives matter.
Recently,I saw Facebook posts by black women who questioned if black women should really be leading protest marches against the murder of George Floyd or any other black man in light of the feeling that some black women say they have of being disrespected by black men. The question was posed—“Why should we march out in front to protect them?” I am dismayed. It seems to me that this question is being offered up as a change in conversation for the major topic that confronts us all—the state sanctioned murder of black people. I think the question shows a lack of knowledge and understanding.
My Dad was a veteran of World War 2. He fought as an American soldier who was treated like a second-class citizen by the country of his birth. He fought as an American soldier because he was an American citizen. He also fought because he understood that the Jews, Gypsies, gays and other groups that the Nazis considered undesirables were human beings who were being de-humanized, tortured and killed. My Father knew deep within his being that no human being should be treated that way. He did not refuse to fight on their behalf because he remembered an instance where he had been mistreated by a Jewish person in America. He did not say: Why should I risk my life for them? He understood that a country or ideology that demonized, brutalized, experimented on and sought to exterminate a group of human beings, must be stopped. Such a country or ideology was/is a threat to human beings everywhere.
The following quote is on a tombstone at The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:
“They came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.”
My Father hated much about his military experience, but he never questioned the rightness of fighting to save the lives of human beings. He did not ask if the lives at risk were those of men or women or children.
In my humble opinion, personal grievances should take a backseat to ferreting out and eliminating racist policies and state-sanctioned actions that are snuffing out black lives. In other words, even if a brother or a sister has offended you, you should add your voice to those that seek justice. To discuss anything else at this time seems petty to me.
I am so proud of the young Black Lives Matter protestors and their allies who are on the battle field fighting for the safety, freedom, justice, and pursuit of happiness of black people because they understand that Black Lives are in jeopardy—and that matters.
I hope we can all learn from them and from history.