– White Lives Matter
– Black Lives Matter
As a white, middle-class male with a decent education and sound, safe upbringing in a “low-class” part of town, I have found it difficult to pick a side of this argument.
All Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter, Women’s Lives Matter, etc. – I feel stuck in the middle.
Both sides are angry, Both sides say the other is racist.
They are extremists because there is rarely a concession by them that the actions of a few are not the actions of the majority. I know I have certainly not wanted to shoot any body, nor condone it, of any race.
Taking a life is a crime against everyone, whether it is intentional, justified or not.
But it is the little things that add up. How have I contributed to this culture?
I have taken a couple of college classes. I have seen the data laid out:
The staggering numbers of Black and Hispanic/Latino men in prison (not jail) without conviction compared to white men. The Crack vs. Cocaine debate. The clash of politics, criminology and sociology on single Black/Latina/Hispanic mothers. The suspicions of vagueness when statistics of race in relation to deaths by police during arrest are presented. The history of civil rights in this country in relation to others.
I have seen how the census has shaped our idea of race over the last century. I have ancestors that come from indigenous tribes whose records were destroyed by white men.
I grew up in schools and neighborhoods where the majority of my friends and role models were Latino. My family tree contains Irish, Welsh, German, Italian, Navajo, Choctaw and Cherokee. As an American, I am left with the imprint of all and the cultural identity of none.
As a musician, I have played the music that white musicians stole from black artists.
And I have also played the music that white musicians credit to black artists.
I have been told by some that Race is an invention.
Others, say it is real and something to be proud of.
Others, it is a crutch for the anonymous.
Others, say that race determines your socio-economic status and criminal record before you are born.
I have heard white people tell me they wish that all people will be held accountable for their racism. As if “reverse-racism” is a real term.
I have heard white people say “Well, they wouldn’t be dead/shot/arrested/in prison if they hadn’t committed a crime.”
I have heard white people say, “They grew up that way, they can’t help it, they grew up in a family of criminals/gangs.”
I have seen Latino men, senior to me in age and experience, stay silent and obedient when the white boss gives me a promotion or a raise before them.
I have been threatened, called racist terms casually, had trash thrown at me and even one time punched just for being white and wearing “fag clothes” in the “wrong part of town, guero.”
The Internet with its memes, tweets and posts has plunged me into an abyss of cultural ethnocentrism and relativism simultaneously. People standing up for people, standing up for people, with words alone.
I have watched documentaries on black prejudice and the triumph over it, some of my favorite books and poetry was written by Maya Angelou, Dagoberto Gilb, and Alexander Dumas.
I have listened to friends and family of all races, ethnicity, cultures and nationalities tell me their differing stories and opinions.
They have so much in common and live such different lives.
I have heard racist things said all my life, as an adult I cringe at them, but when I was young, it was my impression of perfection and adulthood.
Where do I fall? Where can I rest so that others will be satisfied with their level of rights in comparison to my own?
It is hard to see when your culture is different than others. To recognize your privilege and recognize when you are taking advantage of it regardless of the injustice you feel individually.
I believe no one can say the pain or burden their label gives them is more or less painful than another’s. That in and of itself is a form of prejudice.
However, it is a daily task to fight color-blindness and prejudice and to be aware of your actions and words. To reach into the core of who you are, the individual untainted by society. To reach past the way you have been trained and socialized since birth and reverse certain perspectives and ideologies. To be open-minded yet unplayable, to look for the ways that diversity has actually improved your life.
I know this only: Because of our history and our debt of love to each other, in America, it is a daily job and a duty for all white men to put themselves into the shoes of their fellow peers, friends, colleagues and citizens before they stand up for something or make a statement about what is right.
I will let you know how its done as I struggle and fight to get there myself.
Here’s a great article recently that i’m going to implement: https://medium.com/@keeltyc/how-to-easily-be-a-white-ally-to-marginalized-communities-fb0ff326e7ac#.k65016m98