There have been a lot of loud voices lately saying, why do only black lives matter? All lives matter! Well, friends, I can tell you why, right now, there is an urgency regarding black lives...because they really haven't mattered. Yes, my white friends, the lives of our black friends haven't mattered. They didn't matter when we brought them over on boats and held them as slaves, they didn't matter when the Founding Fathers espoused freedom and equality and went home to plantations filled with slaves, and, this may be news to people, but, even as our nation elected its first black president, black lives still didn't matter.
We are kidding ourselves if we think we live in a society that values equality. When you look at a black man and wonder, before anything, if he is a thug or a criminal...When a black woman has strong opinions and suddenly she's an angry black woman...When parents choose not to send their child to "that school" because they have "heard things", but really the school is predominately black (and therefore bad). When these things happen we are reinforcing the deep rifts that our system was built upon.
I am setting aside anything involving police violence here because even without those murders, black lives haven't mattered nearly as much as those of their white counterparts. Unfortunately, white privilege allows us to not worry so much about it and, foolishly, say things like all lives matter (even when we don't mean it-- I've seen many people blow off (and say terrible things about) refugee lives, immigrant lives, etc...).
As an educator, my role is so important in helping my students navigate their role in this movement. I worry because it is, sort of, a leaderless movement. I look to the Civil Rights Movement as an example and see leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. The demonstrations, sit-ins, and protests were well orchestrated and organized. The leaders were calculated in their movements and messages. It's not that the current movement doesn't have a message--it does--but I worry that without a few strong leaders the movement won't be as strong or unified as it could, or should, be. Either way, I want my students to feel empowered. I want them to feel like their voices can be heard and that they are valued. I want to give them literature, essays, poems, and speeches from which they can draw strength and power. I want them to teach me.
My eyes are wide open as we negotiate these turbulent times. I am an eager student of the time and, I hope, can be a sounding board for my students as they work to make sense of their role and their identity within this movement. #blacklivesmatter #mystudentsmatter