I want to talk about something that happened in my state last night. Three incredible women set up a protest/vigil in Oklahoma City to honour those who have been slain by police simply for the colour of their skin and to speak out against the systematic and blatant racism that occurs in this country.
As I stated on Twitter, it was “beautiful, and peaceful, and powerful, and I’m grateful I could attend.” There were no outbreaks of violence or anger; when protestors of BLM (anti-protestors?) did show up with confederate flags and signs bearing the n-word (what better proof that the confederate flag is, in fact, a racist symbol?) they were respectfully but firmly asked to leave by protestors, and escorted away by the police.
This is a snippet of a poem someone performed, and it really captured me, especially the last line. I’m sorry I don’t know his name – I couldn’t actually even see him.
“If this doesn’t open your mind, it wasn’t meant for you.”
Thousands of people attended, and the diversity was uplifting. When the event was initially advertised, I did briefly question whether or not I should attend, and my sentiments were echoed by another white woman who stated that she didn’t want to “take up space that wasn’t meant for her.” That is a very important concept to recognise.
What’s also important is the response she got from the organisers and community: support from anyone is valued, and there is, of course, power in numbers.
White people have to ask themselves how they can stand up and fight for the rights of their countrymen who have been so oppressed. There’s a heated debate as to how, though – many see our social media posts and declaration of support as attention-seeking and stifling the voices that truly need to be heard. Others call on us to support the Black Lives Matter movement because the colour of our skin just makes it that much safer for us to speak out. There is no right answer, of course. The black community is hurting – my friends of colour are scared to go places where they should be safe and protected – and however they choose to express that is valid.
Mostly we need to remember that this movement is not about us. It’s about validating and uplifting and protecting our brothers and sisters who are so often viewed as second-class citizens in the eyes of the law and society. We need police reform and equal rights laws and justice.
I know that even posting about this may be seen as overstepping bounds. But after experiencing the incredible beauty and love and respect everyone displayed last night, I wanted to share the fact that this movement is not divisive or threatening, but is nonviolent and powerful and necessary.
As the final speaker queried last night,
Did we have peace? Yes
Did we have respect? Yes
All lives can’t matter until #BlackLivesMatter