Trayvon Martin, John Crawford, Jonathan Ferrell, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice are black. The first word of the hashtag reminder that particular lives also matter is black. The color of the shirts worn by Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Derrick Rose, and countless others showing support for the Garner family is black. And even still, at its core, this isn’t a black thing.
Black voices are the most populous in protests – therefore the loudest – because black is the most hurt. We hurt because the faces of the victims look like our own. It’s heartbreaking to see “yourself” reduced to news networks using your Facebook photos to debate whether or not you were complicit in your own murder.
But this is a human thing. Even more contrarily salient, if it were exclusive to an ethnicity, it’d be white.
The ‘gotta hear both sides’ part of America misidentifies the wrong party as having not been heard. Claiming to be an expert on America or a Patriot without a clear understanding of this country’s race relations is living a lie. If you really want to hear both sides then understand that racists and bigots didn’t disappear with the signing of a few pieces of paper. Understand that the separate but equal way of dealing with blacks once slavery was abolished was never separate and equal. Understand that there’s a history of state sanctioned aggression against black people. And understand that aggression was either exacerbated via police who turned a blind eye, or worse, participated.
We all have a responsibility to know our history. As Americans it is the only way to understand our flaws. We need black history to become American history – because it is. As common as ‘in 1492’ and ‘the Niña the Pinta and the Santa Maria,’ race in America needs to be a foundation of knowledge everyone has. And if you don’t, you should be told by someone you respect. Preferably by someone who looks like you.
The ‘No More’ and ‘It’s On Us’ campaigns rely heavily on men – well respected and recognizable men – to encourage a moving away from a culture that openly disrespects women. Women can (and have) been seeking equal treatment under law for decades but legislation can only go so far. The mindset within an all-male group must change and the only way that will happen is if more and more men within those groups aid in the change of culture. The present norm only becomes minority from within.
Black people need the same. We suffer misfortune because racists and bigots haven’t disappeared, they’ve adapted. We need white people who have challenged themselves to see from the black perspective, or are willing to, to speak out.
Human nature makes it instinctual to put more value in things that resemble you. It’s a primal survival of the fittest tactic that we haven’t evolved out of. But in a world this complex and interconnected, it should now be part of evolutionary development to seek different perspectives and understanding.
As black people we alone can’t fix this. Our cries don’t mean as much because we’re crying out to those who can’t fully understand. That’s why it’s on all of us to help more of us understand. Those that have worked to understand need to share and be vocal, especially white people. It can’t just come from black voices and/or faces.
Nobody black signed the Emancipation Proclamation.