Like many white, male leaders out there, I struggle to find the words that properly communicate my feelings around the Black Lives Matter movement gripping our world. I have been dedicating a lot of work toward gaining a better understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) over the past several years. This included a four day workshop through my work on the Street Trust Board of Directors, countless uncomfortable conversations with friends both white and of color, and through the books, podcasts and video I consume. While I still have much to learn as I grapple with this topic and my role in it, I have learned and try to live some truths along the way.
The experience of living in our society looks very different for me than my friends of color. White privilege is real and I benefit disproportionately. It’s critical that we listen to each other and gain a wide variety of perspectives in order to gain a deeper understanding of our complex world. It’s NOT enough to sit back and claim that the problem doesn’t exist.
I’d like to share some valuable resources that have helped shape my evolving perspective on the topics of Black Lives Matter and DEI. If you are seeking to learn more, I encourage you check these out:
Talking to Strangers - Malcolm Gladwell
Book of Joy - Douglas Abrams
Salute - A documentary about the historic black power salute on the podium of the men’s 200m. It's rich with context of both what led to this moment and the response from society to these three men.
I’d love to hear what you’ve been reading and watching as well. We all come at this from very different angles. It’s when we explore these topics together that the magic and growth happens.
Finally, I’m grateful for the team of diverse and curious minds that I get to work with each day. During this time, I have enjoyed many complex conversations with the people of Cascade as we seek to find our voice and way through these challenging times. Abdellah Ramadan, our project coordinator has shared his unique and valuable experiences. He’s taking the lead for us with social media and this powerful Black Lives Matter post. Empowering him and others on the team has been a growth experience for us all. I hope you enjoy and benefit from these words as we all seek to learn and grow.
Black Lives Matter. Why is this so important to understand? Because until Black Lives Matter, all lives won’t matter. Black Lives Matter is not a term of confrontation or an exclusionary demand. It’s a call for drastic change in statistical numbers that show that people who are Black are twice as likely to be killed by a police officer while unarmed, compared to a white individual.
As a Palestinian writing this piece, I can’t stress enough to anyone reading this, how important it is to understand why Black Lives Matter. Until Black Lives Matter no one’s lives are safe from the injustice that has spread across our nation, and our world. Even in the Middle East you are discriminated against for having darker skin. All over the world Black Lives have suffered an injustice and it’s time we come together to end this rampant discrimination.
Black Lives did not matter when they were inhumanely transported like livestock from Africa. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives did not matter when they were forced to work as if they had no other purpose. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives did not matter when they were lynched by the hundreds at the hands of the KKK. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives did not matter when they were attacked by dogs as they protested for equal rights. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives did not matter when doctors failed to treat them for syphilis just to see what would happen. Black Lives Matter.
As protests against racist police brutality spread across the United States and around the world, you can hear cries of “Black Lives Matter” chanted through our streets and on social media. As we see, hear, and have to discuss what is happening, we need to stop and think about how to respond and participate at such a pivotal time. It’s important to recognize what Black Lives Matter really means as well as why the phrase “All Lives Matter” is problematic.
At the surface, “All Lives Matter” sounds like a we’re-all-in-this-together statement. Some are using the phrase to suggest that all races should join hands and stand together against racism. But the problem is, the phrase actually takes the focus away from the lives who need it most right now. Saying “All Lives Matter” redirects the attention from Black lives, who are the ones in peril.
It’s important to understand what drives the BLM movement and how to support it by using the phrase and standing behind what it means. It can and will be an uncomfortable experience for many of us, especially if you’re someone that hasn’t taken the time to understand your own role in the systemic oppression that exists in our society. It’s also an essential education, no matter where you are in your journey.
So what does Black Lives Matter mean?
It’s a rally cry for change, it’s an anthem for justice, it’s a movement for equality, and it’s a straightforward fact! The Black Lives Matter message is essential to the protests that are happening world wide; an hour from you, ten minutes from you, and for some right on your doorstep. Black Lives Matter speaks out against the police brutality and systemic racism that caused the recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade and Breonna Taylor, as well as the thousands of violent incidents that happen to Black people that aren’t recorded, aren’t reported, or aren’t afforded the outrage they deserve. This is why Black Lives Matter.