If you’re not on the various social media platforms, you may not understand how much our national political conversation has devolved. It’s turned into a rotting, stinking cesspool of hate and vitriol, the likes of which I’ve never experienced anywhere else in my 42 years.
Let me give you an example.
There is a man in Warroad (whom I’ve never met), who wants me dead.
I’ll get to his exact words in a minute, but in a nutshell, he hopes I will die because I believe black lives matter and that whites need to stop saying All Lives Matter.
I defend the concept and the organization Black Lives Matter because as history shows, movements like it are critically important to improving the circumstances for the most ill-treated people in our country. I believe we should all remember how people of color were treated in the past and we should all be paying attention to how they are treated right now. I also believe that every single one of us should step up loudly when we witness any mistreatment. White people especially, in our safe and comfortable privilege, have a moral and social responsibility to put our necks on the line to defend the rights of non-whites. This is what I believe and no amount of all lives mattering rhetorical idealism will convince me otherwise.
Back to the social media exchange:
On a post about the real and provable racial inequalities in our justice system, a woman commented simply, “BLM.” This man who appears to be a member of the Warroad community, responded to her, saying “All Lives Matter…there.. fixed it for you..”
Then I chimed in. When I witness a white person retorting that All Lives Matter, I can no longer sit silent. Of course, we would love to live in a world where all lives do indeed matter, but the fact is we don’t. All lives don’t matter. According to our social and economic structures, our criminal justice system, and our national conversation at the moment, black lives barely matter. Indigenous lives barely matter. Non-Christian lives and their rights to live and worship in peace barely matter as compared to the lives and rights of Christians. We see it again and again when cops kill innocent people and go unpunished, when white women call the police on black people simply because they are “uncomfortable”, when people of color are incarcerated at higher rates and with harsher sentences than whites for committing the exact same crimes, when the rate of missing and murdered indigenous women reaches epidemic proportions before anyone of authority takes notice, when people practicing other religions aren’t safe in their own places of worship, when Christian-only beliefs are pushed through to legislation, when the dignity and safety of LGBTQ people and non-binary gendered people are compromised as their rights are slowly and systematically stripped away, even over something as simple as where they are allowed to use the bathroom.
No, all lives do not matter.
And so, when a movement springs up as a result of the murder of innocent black lives, and whites go around denying the importance of that movement and the importance of black lives by spouting that All Lives Matter, I can’t sit still. I can’t be silent. I can’t let it pass. In the heat of the social moment, I responded to Mr. Brad Heddan’s comment, writing:
“We already know white lives matter. They’ve always mattered more than anyone else’s. The time has come for whites to recognize that and quit basking in their privilege. BLACK LIVES MATTER!”
To which he responded:
“Kellie Knight I didnt say “white lives matter”…
i said “all lives matter”
funny you saw “white” in that….you and ppl like you are dividing this country and destroying it from within..
you and your race baiting identity politics are what is wrong..
EVERY life: black, asian, hispanic, and yes even WHITE.
ppl like you disgust me and make me hate this world just a bit more.
i hope you have to live in the sh#* you help perpetuate. i really do. when this country descends into sectarian and race wars, i hope you are the “collateral damage”.
a country divided cannot stand, and ppl like you are dividing this country on a scale not seen since right before the civil war started.
(The only part I changed was the curse word, and FYI – the acronym “smh” stands for shaking my head.)
I didn’t respond further. It was a terrible, ugly thing to say to someone, no matter who they are, and it didn’t justify further engagement. There are a lot of things I’d love to say in response, but they’re not anything like what you might expect when someone wishes you death.
My feelings weren’t hurt. I didn’t take it personally. It rang false and full of fear to me. Sure I was shocked, but I could also see that this guy is obviously in pain.
I asked the man if he’d meet for coffee and a more civil conversation. I want to know why my life doesn’t matter to him. I want to know why he thinks it’s a bad thing to seemingly divide a country when people’s lives and freedoms are at stake, yes, not unlike right before the Civil War as he pointed out. That was one war that was quite necessary, and I know which side I would have been on.
If this were all happening in the early 1800’s or during the mid-20th Century Civil Rights Movement, I would most certainly be pissing off a bunch of white folks by defending the rights of our black citizens. I would have had bricks thrown through my windows and crosses burned in my yard. I would have been called an N-word Lover and spat on. I would be on a bus headed south. I would be marching and working and probably being arrested, injured and possibly even killed for the cause. I would be fighting for change in whatever capacity I could, just like I am now, one small BLM comment at a time. But apparently to Mr. Brad Heddan, my life wouldn’t have mattered to him then and it doesn’t matter now.
Which happens to prove my point: all lives don’t matter. I wish they did. I wish we could all truthfully spout “All Lives Matter”, but frankly, only white people say that. Only white people speak from a place of such comfort and security that they can naïvely believe that all lives matter. Only white people believe that their version of idealism will fix everything that’s wrong with this country, with this world.
In the meantime, the rest of America will have to keep fighting for what is rightly theirs, including the basic right to keep breathing.
To this man, you say that “All Lives Matter” and you wish me dead in the very same breath. I hope you’ll take another deep breath and try again. The coffee invitation still stands.
As for me, I know where I stand as well. I stand with Black Lives Matter. I stand with the water defenders. I stand for the separation of church and state. I stand for equal pay and rights for women. I stand beside our genderqueer citizens. I’ll stand here until all lives matter. Because right now, they don’t.
(Published in the May 15th issue of the Warroad Pioneer)