Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Black Lives Matter

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

- 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution, 1791

On Saturday, several hundred citizens of my county came together and were able to practice our Constitutional right to assemble peacefully and to protest. I was very blessed to be able to attend and to, most importantly, learn so much about systematic racism, racial profiling and hear the stories that my fellow citizens had to share with the rest of us about the racism they have experienced here in our own community. I went to the protest not really knowing what to expect or what I could possibly do to help, and left it feeling like I have a bit of sense of  the "next step foward"; due to suggestions given during the forum part of the protest, of where to invest my time, my money and my energy.

I think the thing that was most impressed upon me is the fact that this community experienced 2 years worth of similar injustice in the 1950's. I had never heard the story before, but after segregation was officially outlawed in 1954, this community resisted integration. While a pro-integration white man set fire to the Black school one night in an attempt to force integration, the community merely fixed up the building and still had Black children attend there. The Black mothers were not having that, and for two years, marched every day to the white school with their children. In 1956, finally, a judge ruled that Black children must be allowed to attend school with their white neighbors. I HAD NEVER HEARD THIS STORY AND I HAVE RESEARCHED A TON ABOUT THE HISTORY OF THIS COMMUNITY SINCE I'VE LIVED HERE. Why is this not being still told?!

I was also shaken in the days leading up to the protest by the anger and hate directed towards the idea of the protest and the people who organized it. I did not expect that at all. I live in a very rural, small community and although we are mostly white, there is a definite Black element to our community. My kids attend school with a few Black children. Racism here has never been really super apparent to me so I guess I never really thought about it. But once the protest was organized there was SO. MUCH. PUSHBACK. Like, why?? What the hell is the big deal about this? From the beginning, this protest was presented to be in full compliance with the county officials, the sheriffs department, social distancing, masks, etc and with absolutely no tolerance for violence. BUT THERE WAS STILL SUCH A HUGE PUSHBACK. 

I saw posts on Facebook from "concerned" community members, talking about "rednecks" "taking care of" the situation, talk about people carrying (which is legal here in Ohio), talk about running people down with semis. One of the organizers had death threats. This was such a huge, jarring, shocking, sickening eye opener to me.

I guess it really affected the way I think about racism. I suppose I've always thought of racism as an active thing; people obviously shaming/shunning Black people or treating them as less/not important/less educated/criminal etc. I haven't really seen that here. But goddamn, there is a LOT of passive racism. It made me think that perhaps a lot of people in this community are content to live alongside their Black fellow citizens as long as the status quo is kept, as long as Black people are "in their place". WHAT THE FUCK, PEOPLE.

I didn't take any of the little ones with me since I wasn't sure what to expect. I was really surprised by how many people showed up - up to 400, I heard. It was encouraging to me to see so many people there, coming together to show support for our Black community! In the end, there was no violence, no threats, only a few shouted remarks (I didn't personally hear them, but others who were there said they heard them). It was a very good thing and I am so glad I went. I am more glad that I know a little bit more now, and can act accordingly. 

Much love,

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Thank you for your lovely thoughts!