Am I Black and does it matter?
I asked myself this more than a decade before #BLACKLIVESMATTER was a movement. Though it certainly occurred during middle school I cannot clearly recall the first time my blackness became a question. A child of African diplomats, I attended a public school in one of the suburbs of the Washington DC area. The school, as expected of the neighbourhood and occupations of the parents that lived there, was full of other children with international backgrounds. I can safely assume that half of the kids were either first-generation Americans if not foreigners by citizenry.
We were however Bethesdians, Panthers then Vikings, classmates, competitors, fans and team-mates, amongst other things. MoCo What!
I vaguely recall my first days of Middle School but I did have a friend assigned to ostensibly show me around the school…well at that point they were not yet a friend but became one. We had most of the same classes and he was a great help.
Now, I didn’t specifically take note of this at the time, and not much when recalling it until this moment but he actually was/is, I mean technically an African-American. I haven’t actually asked him if he considers himself Black (as have previously discussed and will continue to that there does seem to be quite a distinction between black, African-American, African etc) I am almost certain that almost all BLACK LIVES MATTER supporters and members would consider him black though. Not saying it never came up, but it wasn’t worth noting. Now I’m sitting here wondering it the school suggested he show me around because I was from Africa and he was one of the few “black” students in the school?
If he is Black, why didn’t it matter?
More on this later, I foresee things remaining somewhat more personal for the near future.
#BLACKLIVESMATTER is now international. I’d say global but have not heard of activities in Asia, the Middle East or Africa (likely due to there being hardly any to protest, them not caring a lick if any protested and being the vast majority of the population so who would they protest against? respectively). The most recent cause for outcry was the 2 deaths of black males after being shot by police that incited protests that continue past the five deaths of police after 11 were shot by a black male. I took some time to think through it, let some more information come out and to try and realize where, when, how and why this occurs.
Why this is an issue, why this matters.
If I am Black, should it matter?
The growth of technology has been described as exponential. The instantly updating nature of the Information Age it has enabled is ever more evident around issues like these 3 incidents that led to deaths and ongoing protests. All this information provides a temptation, if not an outright invitation, to jump to conclusions, fabricate, exaggerate or fall into dismay. I do not want to fall into any of these typical reactions to situations such as the ones in this past week.
Thursday evening, on the 7th of July while walking back from grocery shopping, I saw a line of police vehicles stopped along an entire block of 6th Avenue. Having sent my laptop to hopefully get fixed, I had elected to take some time off of the Internet, where I get most of my news. Unable to keep completely out of the loop, I used my cellphone and was aware of the shootings and subsequent deaths of Philando Castille on Wednesday that was preceded by that of Alton Sterling a day before on the 5th. I had read some of the initial reports, seen a few images, and heard they were both recorded, one partially live-streamed. My main thoughts were still of getting home and prepping for a dinner guest, and a fleeting one of wondering who they may be escorting or protecting. As I had uncharacteristically not put the earphones back in my ears after leaving the grocery store, I took note of what must be a helicopter or more in a holding pattern overhead due to how the distinct sound of the engine powering the blades was increasing as I walked instead of the usual approach and recession as it flies by.I crossed Broadway and looked to 5th Avenue where I saw and heard the people walking up the street. This is why the police vehicles were blocks away, this is what the eyes in the sky were focused on. It was a BLACKLIVESMATTER protest.
Having decided to cross through, a mix of emotions begun to well up as I walked up to the steadily moving mix of people and and not quite moving vehicles. Agree with protests or not, there is a certain energy about collective action. The ‘Black lives matter!’ chants begun and as I got to the other side, put in my earphones and pressed play I could hear the chants of “This is what Democracy looks like!” begin and be carried along. I paused the playback and shook my head admonishing my attempt to block this out.
‘Think about it! This is something you need to figure out.’
In a few blocks I was inside.
Since that was not what I thought Democracy looks like, why did they? We could not both be right. We could both be wrong. What did it mean that led them to walk up the street and I across? I was and am searching for the root of the matter. The sentiment expressed by those in the crowd could likely be part of what had driven me to spend an amount of time searching for my so-called blackness.
Did this begin in Middle School when I first met my friend?
You may think that the school assigned me to him since under the assumption we would bond over our shared blackness. That something about a somewhat similar skin colour would include some higher compatibility. If you consider it to be a good judgment call on their part, and not in the least somewhat negatively racist, but actually a policy they and other institutions should adopt and follow I would assume that you agree with much of #BLACKLIVESMATTER’s support of segregation based on the claim that black people somehow intrinsically can relate to other black people in ways that non-black people cannot. Were they not in the streets protesting because what happened to those black people was somewhat indicative, relatable or should somewhat matter more to all people that are black or care for blacks?
What I remembered of our early years is he had great video games at his house amazingly in his actual room with a phone!, helped me in school and his grandma used to give us some really tasty cookies. We shared an interest in sports, and he introduced me to many friends and showed me around his neighbourhood and helped me call it my neighbourhood. Before writing this I’d always thought of him as friend, instead of a ‘Black’ friend.
Thanks for that #BLACKLIVESMATTER.
That’s it for now, thanks for reading. I shall divide my commentary and thoughts on this subject into several parts as it is not that straightforward of a topic and is worth going into detail on to the different aspects of it. I will try to explain my thought process in trying to discover what exactly BLACKLIVESMATTER means to me, what their intentions are purported to be and what its effects are and will be.
The USA is in the midst of an unprecedented presidential campaign, was just getting coming to terms with finding out that a candidate would not face criminal charges, on a long 4th of July holiday weekend then this explodes onto the scene and will likely carry on until the upcoming Political party conventions. I shall be in Kenya by the end of this week but you can expect me to continue this series and other posts.
On the Title : I used the voice to text function on my phone and it somehow picked up ‘lives’ as lies.I decided to keep that as the title, as it is fitting to the issue at hand in several ways. First it shows how my accent depending on who I am speaking to, where I am, or what I am reading changes in an effort to have myself better understood and as a part of my not really feeling I belong to a “Black” or other prepackaged identity. Second sometimes what someone says is not exactly what is intended and/or heard. Third and most importantly, this is an issue that cannot afford to be based on, or spread falsehoods. If white lies are those that can be told with little or no consequence those involved here can be considered black lies. Lives are at stake, lives have ended and before it is said and done more will likely be victims of this. At the end of this short series I hope that you can see some of my thought process and also share your thoughts, engage me and/or others in conversation or in the least question what exactly people mean when they say black lives matter.
Next post shall titled : White Lies about #BLACKLIVESMATTER