Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Okay, fine, let’s get it out of the way. All lives matter. Hopefully those that need to hear that are satisfied and we can move beyond the participation trophy and talk about real issues.
Full disclosure, I’m a white guy, and yes, I have inherent racism. It’s an issue we all have and need to be aware of. I personally believe it’s like sports teams. We’re born into a team and have an inherent desire to be on the best one. It’s like hating the Cleveland Browns because you were born in Cincinnati and are by default a Bengals fan. The only way to fight inherent racism is to recognize it in ourselves and striving to overcome it. I was raised by a racist family. One of my earliest memories was being stuck in a car with them on a long trip, I’m thinking maybe middle school, and being forced to hear the racist complaints, comments and “zebra” jokes the rest of my family were making when they discovered that my white uncle had impregnated a black woman. Even then, I stood up to them and asked them to stop, of course to no avail. None the less, this was an awakening for me, not only making me painfully aware of their biases and a desire to never be like that.
While I’m at it, let me apologize if I should offend anybody through the use of the term “black”. I’ve been around long enough to know of many attempts to find a politically correct term. I will use that term in this blog not because I believe it to be non-offensive (which I know to some it is), but rather for lack of knowledge of a better term as well as to be consistent with the “Black Lives Matter” terminology.
To be fair, I don’t intend to cover race issues in the post either, although I will as it is related to the intended topic, that is to say, with so many equal rights groups, why the BLM rights movement matters for all of them. I am not a sociologist or related expert, but this is based on my half century of life and observations.
In my eyes, the BLM movement is not just about rights for black people, but civil rights for all. It’s not about the lives of individual human beings who happen to be born black. Racism to me is an astounding example of ignorance. We’re all human beings, regardless of race, gender, orientation, faith, or any other triviality that makes us different. When I think of the BLM protests, I tend to think of it on terms that are broader; any infringement on rights based on any of these minor differences are unacceptable. If we can erase societal inherent racism against the black community, it is my greatest hope that these new social advancements will extend far beyond the black community. But, why BLM and not another group?
Personally, I believe it’s because the inherent racism against blacks has the longest traceable and brutal bias history in our nation, at least in an obvious manner. A lot of people are writing today about our societal inherent racism, tracing the roots to legal slave ownership. The concept that one human being can own another based the color of their skin was a part of our culture before we were even a nation. After a literal war to give freedom to slaves still failed to give civil rights to black people.
It feels like our society always needs to have some kind of an outlet for hatred. It’s pathetic. If you have never felt this, then you are probably a white man like me. But that’s not an excuse not to be aware of it. The black community has long felt the brunt of this with police brutality, inequity in the court system, outright violence from whites, and lesser issues like being constantly watched and followed that just makes them feel that much less comfortable.
After 911, for a time the societal bias shifted from the black community to those from the Middle East. I still recall the “it’s your turn” jokes. That bias continues today as evidenced by one of the presidents first, and widely praised by those in his base, actions was to restrict travel from what he perceived to be “Muslim countries”. The choice of countries has been widely criticized since it included countries that were never tied to the terrorist act and did not include the one nation that was. The War on Women is alive and well and had a brief resurgence of activity recently, but somehow it never really caught on as much as BLM. Personally, I believe this is because this violence against women was far more hidden for far longer, and simply accepted as a part of society. The Suffrage movement didn’t even give women the right to vote until 1920, and it took several more decades before domestic violence wasn’t simply dismissed as “family matters” by the authorities. Unfortunately, studies show that violence against women is on the increase since the quarantine, proving that far more needs to be done for gender equality. More recently than that, the LGBTQ+ community has become active in fighting for their rights as well. Recently the Supreme Court handed the community a huge win in a finding that the law protecting against sex discrimination does cover gender identity and sexual orientation as well, but the fact that there has been such backlash against this ruling by the president and the conservative community demonstrates too clearly that there, again, we’re still in the woods.
So why BLM? Why not all of them, or some other rights movement? I hate to say it, but I think that, as a society, we simply don’t have the capacity to focus on more than one major movement at a time. All of these are areas that need significant changes, but perhaps the most violent, and most violent examples of discrimination must be upon the black community. But these displays are not just against the black community. These violations are an affront to everybody who is oppressed, as well as to all of us who simply believe in justice and equality. They should not happen, not to the black community, not to people based on gender or sexual orientation, not to people based on religion. The America I want to live in is an America where everybody, all of us, are equal. Equal in civil rights, equal in voting rights, equal in society.