DO WE REALLY?
Recently I moved to the great city of Brooklyn, New York. However, I still frequently visit my family and friends back in New Jersey. Today I walked by the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Montclair, a church that I used to be very involved with in leading the Undoing Racism Committee. As I walked by the pale colored building, I noticed a banner hanging on the side of the church building that read, “Black Lives Matter.” As I thought about the message and movement behind the phrase, I wondered, do Black Lives REALLY matter?
Honestly, I cannot pretend to know what it’s like to walk even one step in the shoes of an African-American person today. However, based on all my knowledge of history and the racism that exists in every major American system, I can say that if I were black in America, I would feel that my life doesn’t matter as much as a white American’s life. I mean the statistics and stories have all been shown to us on the news time and time again from racial profiling, to police brutality, to an unjust justice system whose inmates are 40% African-Americans, who only make-up 13% of America. Yet, many of my white brothers and sisters are all bent out of shape over the saying, “Black Lives Matter.” Many interpret it to mean that if I support the Black Lives Matter movement I am somehow against white people, which makes very little sense to me.
FINDING THE TRUTH ABOUT BLACK LIVES MATTERING:
Hmmmm….let’s really think about this for a minute. We recognized Holocaust Remembrance Day on April 24th, but nobody questioned if Jews are saying only Jewish lives matter. When Italian Americans celebrate their heritage on Columbus Day or other holidays, I don’t wonder, hmmmm, maybe they are saying non-Italian Americans don’t matter…
When it comes to pride of any other ethnic group, nobody equates that organization or movement with saying that other lives don’t matter!! We white people have not been able to really understand the full depth of our history and legacy of racial slavery! We need to learn how it has impacted every major institution and system in our nation, including how our nation made its’ wealth and why we even declared independence in the first place.
We don’t even know the real reasons behind American Independence from Great Britain was to continue the legacy of slavery. Did you know that in the 1760s and 1770s, the British government was exploring ways to stop the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and planning to phase out slavery in all its colonies? Now, do not mistake ending slavery with the belief that blacks deserved equal treatment and rights, but the mere threat that slavery could be ending in the colonies was too much to bear for the white male oligarchy (the Washingtons, Jeffersons, Adams, Henrys, Jays, Shermans, etc)
Little known to most Americans is a court case named, “The Somerset Case.” In June of 1772, while the colonies were still under British Colonial rule, the British courts issued a damaging judgement against slavery. An African-American man named James Somerset, who was the property of slave owner Charles Stewart, who was a customs officer from BOSTON, yes BOSTON! Stewart traveled to England with his slave in 1769, at which time Mr. Somerset was exposed to the free blacks living and thriving in England.
He was so inspired by them that he escaped from his slave owner in late 1771. However, the escape was not a success at first because he was captured and meant to be sold in the British colony of Jamaica. In defense of his freedom, a group of abolitionists went to court on his behalf and prevented him being sold and shipped to Jamaica. The lawyers argued that while the American colonial laws supported slavery, the common law of England didn’t recognize slavery as legal, therefore it was illegal.
Of course the Southerners were like, “OMG!” we can’t have this! First, American slaves would hear about this case and try to escape to England for their freedom. As explained in Slave Nation: How Slavery United The Colonies And Sparked The American Revolution, by Alfred and Ruth Blumrosen, “The possibility of a British rejection of slavery anywhere in the empire appalled the (southern) plantation owners… because slavery was a necessary underpinning of their prosperity. Slavery was the foundation of the economic and social environment that their leaders represented and protected. The riches that flowed from slave ownership were threefold: the value of the slaves themselves, both as capital and as security for loans; the value of the product they produced, including more slaves; and the value of the land they cleared and planted.”
WHAT IT ALL REALLY MEANS:
So when we celebrate our independence day, and proud to be an American, what we are really celebrating is the right to not only keep the institution of slavery profiting the white wealthy class, but also to perpetuate racism in every major American institution today, education, justice, government, banking & finance, family & marriage, etc.
So yes, I support the Black Lives Matter movement, just as I support the NAACP and the Black Panthers. I support any organization that stands for equality, justice, and is working to end systemic racism. We all suffer from racism, we all need to think about how we show up in the world and do our part to end it. If not me, who? If not now, when?
To support The Black Lives Matter movement, visit: http://policy.m4bl.org/
– Thanks For Reading #SOULdiers
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