Black Lives Matter in Cedar Rapids
August 15, 2015, 45 individuals met at Cedar Rapids public Library to discuss the Black Lives Matter movement, and through more research I was unable to run up a single event since. So why the lack of discussion in Cedar Rapids? Has the movement relied solely on social media in Cedar Rapids, and why all the critique and hatred? It seems there is A LOT of misunderstanding regarding what Black Lives Matter stands for.
The events of the past week have impacted millions of americans in several ways. Sadness, anger, and rage have filled many of our hearts at the passing of two black men, followed by the loss of five officers in Dallas. It's impossible to ignore that people have reacted passionately in explicitly different ways, and many of those who have spoken out in anger have very strong feelings about who's to blame.
A common misconception is that Black Lives Matter is anti-cop. People often deem it necessary to defend officers with #bluelivesmatter as a response or to coincide to the #blacklivesmatter movement. There should be no doubt in any rational mind that being an officer is an absolutely dangerous and demanding profession, and it should be remembered that officers make that decision to be "blue" black skin is not a uniform. Millions of officers fight every day not only to protect citizens by putting their lives on the line, but facing fierce critique and criticism from many of those same citizens.
"Police officers are people. Their lives have inherent value. This movement is not an anti-people movement; therefore it is not an anti-police-officer movement. Most police officers are just everyday people who want to do their jobs, make a living for their families, and come home safely at the end of their shift." - Black Lives Matter
Officers themselves have started countless social media accounts to help keep a dialogue open with citizens about the dangers they face and by no means are dismissive of some of the atrocities horrible officers commit. Perhaps to claim there are good cops, and bad cops, good citizens and bad citizens is oversimplified, but an important lense to view current events. Humanizing the Badge is one such organization that is working on just this. I have also noticed several people sharing some words from Jon Stewart, which he could not have foreseen to become relevant to recent events.
Perhaps the biggest controversy is the common response "All Lives Matter". This response is often shouted out in response to black lives matter in an effort to dismiss that one race is more important than others. This idea is exactly what the Black Lives Matter movement hope to work towards. Of course all decent moral human beings believe all lives matter, but that doesn't mean it is an appropriate response.
"Contained within the statement is an unspoken but implied “too,” as in “black lives matter, too,” which suggests that the statement is one of inclusion rather than exclusion...what the Black Lives Matter movement stands for...is the simple proposition that “black lives also matter.” - Black Lives Matter
"I get their point. The group's founders didn't mean to imply that other people's lives don't matter. Their #BlackLivesMatter hashtag aims to protest how black lives didn't seem to matter in a growing list of scandalous police killings. To them, "all lives matter" isn't a slogan or a movement. It is a dismissal. It is an attempt to end dialogue before it has begun. So, when people say "black lives matter," he said, "it doesn't mean 'blue lives' don't matter, it just means all lives matter." - Clarence Page/Chicago Tribune
“I think the reason that the organizers used the phrase “black lives matter” was not because they were suggesting nobody else’s lives matter,” he said. “What they were suggesting was, there is a specific problem that is happening in the African-American community that’s not happening in other communities. And that is a legitimate issue that we’ve got to address.“I think everybody understands all lives matter. Everybody wants strong, effective law enforcement. Everybody wants their kids to be safe when they’re walking to school. Nobody wants to see police officers, who are doing their jobs fairly, hurt,” - Barack Obama/ThinkProgress
So how has Black Lives Matter become so polarizing? Why is there a middle ground on opposition and how many americans truly don't know enough to come to a conclusion?
"A Pew Research Center poll last week found that 41 percent of black people said they support the movement "strongly." An additional 24 percent support it "somewhat" -- 65 percent support overall -- while just 12 percent oppose it. Part of the reason for low levels of committed support could be that many Americans don't really know what the movement is about." - The Washington Post
Many Americans don't really know what the movement is about. This is why if you feel sadness or anger, fear or mistrust, the best thing you could do is to educate yourself. Do your own research, learn about movements and statistics beyond headlines. All races, all genders, all sexual orientations, we are all human beings. A friend of mine said if it were up to black people, Black Lives Matter wouldn't exist, because it wouldn't need to. I'm a straight white guy and am completely aware of my white privilege. This is not a personal badge of shame but an opportunity to become aware of my role to fight to expand equal opportunity for all humans. There will always be injustice in the world but regardless of your political stance, sexual orientation, race, gender, religion, it's important to recognize that violence is a problem in America, and it affects some communities more than others; That is not dismissive of your social group.
I'll close by reiterating I am a straight white guy. I haven't experienced racism against me, I have not had to face negativity for my sexual orientation, I have not been a victim of being paid less due to my gender, but I want people who have these experiences to have a voice. I'm not always going to get things right or fully understand what other communities go through, but it's important to expand the conversation and make progress to positively impact those who are effected through information. Below are several resources you can gather some of this information. Please remember to take care of yourself as well, it's easy to feel overwhelemed by recent events. (The internet also offers a plethora of puppy and cat videos.)