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If You're Taking Sides You've Missed It!

When #BlackLivesMatter protests took another level in communities across the globe a lot of eyes were watching. Those that felt the need to speak out took to the streets, others started conversations in their households that we later saw on social media, but still others came with what I wanted to address in this post that I hope will illuminate the struggle that is being a Black man, woman, and child.

Before I dig in, let me make one thing clear, this world is filled with many beautiful people of many different ethnicities, cultures, beliefs, and choices. I strongly believe that God created us this way with the intent of showing how beautiful and wide ranging He is. What is consistent about how he created us is that our blood is the same colour and so is the way we breath. With that said, would it be fair to disqualify someone based on their outward appearance and yet their inner substance and means for existence is the same?

Let's begin. When protests started reigning all over the globe while many a debate started lighting up the media waves one thing became clear, those that understood, stood up and those that didn't created sides. Statements like, "All Lives Matter" and "You can't put the acts of a handful of people in the same basket" began to fuel the fire of debate around why black lives matter more than others. I was initially frustrated at these statements until it dawned on me that the meaning of empathy is merely a buzzword in many circles. Isn't it interesting that of all those that screamed all lives matter there was no one coming out with the firm position that a life was lost and that matters. No addition to that statement.

The word empathy is a complex word to understand let alone apply in our day-to-day. It is that lack of understanding of empathy that I believe is what makes us automatically drift towards a binary outlook on race. When I look at the circumstances we've faced, as Black people, over several years of oppression I'm puzzled that we have to fight to be heard about things that we all see.

So where are we missing the point here?

I believe that there are 3 areas that we need to hone in on in order to make sense of all of this and unpack racism.

1. It Starts At Home

As I sit and type these thoughts, my 4-year-old daughter is within eyesight doing what she's consistently done ever since she started claiming her independence. How did she get to this stage? Well my wife and I taught her. Bringing it back to the topic at hand, I know that the innocence of my children is shaped by my brokenness. My experiences of life as I know it is something that has created the biases that I can choose to identify and resolve or put my children at risk by sharing. When it's all said and done, what creates the foundation of my children's perspective on this world is heavily dependent on how much I invest in them in their formative years. So when we look at the world in these different social issues it's safe to say that we are living the results of many homes concluding that it's ok to treat someone Black this way. But is it ok though?

Let me bring it closer to your home my white brother and sister. Is it ok for your innocent child to be labelled swine? Is it ok for your child to be chased off the playground because a person who looks different from them has come? Is it ok for all blemishes on your child's skin to be scrutinized without context? Is it ok for your child to be left out of birthday parties because their skin will make others feel uncomfortable? If your answer was - "no it's not ok, but..." then your position illuminates the reality that my children have to face and I have to explain to them about the world they live in.

It is not a game that those of us who are black parents have to deconstruct the adversity our children have to face nowadays. It is not a joke that as black fathers we must teach our sons how important it is to use the appropriate gestures in public because their lives depend on it. It's heart wrenching to have to tell my daughter that she must ignore people who tease her about her skin because if she speaks up she'd be flagged as the instigator and not the victim. It starts at home. My privileged humans across the way, the gravity of what our parenting holds where race is concerned, has held polarity for a very long time. While it's not my place to speak on how to raise your children, empathize with me and start teaching your children what anti-black racism looks like. Teach your children the value of humanity and how to be an ally. I in turn will teach my children how to find allies in your children. But it all starts at home.

2. Let's Be Authentic

Authenticity is the gateway to vulnerability. This is a reality often overlooked where real relationships are concerned. In this season, where black people are labelled as angry and overreacting, I've come to appreciate the value of authentic and transparent conversations on lived experiences. The unfortunate events that preface the response us black people get when we share our lived experience is "no way! Not in this day and age!" followed by "I'm sorry to hear that," then the topic of discussion shifts. What's not acknowledged in that moment of vulnerability is a genuinely listening ear. It breaks my heart that lives have been lost for years. It has been hard to live and watch the harsh reality that is black oppression and suppression. While this has been the curse known to black kind the authenticity of a different kind is what we need.

What do I mean by this? Be authentic enough to acknowledge what you don't know. Be vulnerable enough to admit moments when you've come short. Be real enough to give space to the tough conversation that comes from the trauma that has been passed from generation to generation in the black community. Once those steps are taken, don't stop. Keep being the ally we desperately need because if you want to fully grasp the formula that undergirds our existence, it's that a voiceless victim becomes a villain. Yes, I said it and I will say it again for the ones in the back, A VOICELESS VICTIM BECOMES A VILLAIN. If you are not authentic enough to give an honest space for a victim, that muting will reach a breaking point and what you will get is what seems like villainess behaviour and yet what it's always been is the lack there of a space for a hurt person to share their generational trauma.

3. Don't Justify or Deflect

"But I didn't do it. I wasn't there when the black community was put through this." While that is true, the complete truth is the piece of the pie you may not realize is our reality. When you take that job because of who your parents know when you know fully well that there are others more qualified than you that look different to you, you are participating in what we are talking about. When you choose to look the other way when a black person is being mistreated by someone who looks like you, you are participating in what we are talking about. You can't justify your presence as long as you participate in the very system that oppresses the black community. There is no justification where equity is nonexistent. My black people, building and advancing the world over through generational oppression are the result of the very system that you choose to justify. Wherever we go, we start at a deficit. If it's not our skin, it's our qualifications - because they were accomplished in an African country that you don't recognize as a place with the quality education systems that interestingly enough, you end using the intelligence of those people to solve your problems.

You can't deflect the reality that is, the system was not built with us in mind, except to say that we built it for you to keep us suppressed. Your intentions were and are very clear because to this day you can and will get the better opportunities, better jobs, better access, and better lifestyle. Your choice is simply to pick how you want to go about it. What do we do? We toil at your mercy, clamouring for the bread crumb hand-me-downs you justify as equity paying opportunities. They are not equity based if we are not starting at the same place. No, they are merely a facade that we have to take back to our children each night as we pick up multiple jobs to make ends meet, following which the system you created will come and punish us through taxes for earning "too much." "But we also get taxed." Sure you get taxed but don't deflect, because our starting points differ. Where your forefathers started is very different from where ours did and that shows exactly the problem.

This is not about taking sides, it's about making things right. Bloodshed after bloodshed we see the vision that is working at its optimum that can only be destroyed by the very hands that created it. Will you kill it? Will you stop this? Will you forget about sides and choose to do away with this cancer from home, in authenticity and without justifying or deflecting? Time always has a way of telling the story. What will the story of the black peoples be now?


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