Hi, friends. I know I've promised a post about how to use Notion for your personal website, and don't worry, that is still coming. But, in light of the protests across the globe right now in response to the murder of George Floyd, it hasn’t felt like the right time and I feel there is something else that needs to be said first.
I know I am a bit later in writing this than many others. At first I was hesitant to write anything because my heart was so heavy with grief and because I did not want to mistakenly say the wrong thing, so I have been quietly watching, listening, and learning, and sharing my thoughts privately with the people closest to me. But I do not want to let this moment pass by without addressing the situation, and while protests and social media campaigns may be slowing, racism certainly has not gone anywhere yet, much as I wish it had. And so I write.
Black lives matter.
I shouldn’t even have to say that.
I do want to address a couple of things up front. First off, all lives matter movement, I see you. Yes, all lives matter. Nobody is saying they don’t. But sadly we live in a society where there are some who ignore the value of Black lives while they wouldn’t even question the value of a white person’s life. Everyone’s life matters, but this is about Black lives because the American system has failed Black people for years, sometimes unintentionally by people’s thoughtlessness and sometimes by design of people’s racism. Saying, “All lives matter” isn’t inaccurate, but it’s distracting. It's also rude, because, whether you mean to be or not, you're essentially stealing the microphone to talk about yourself. This implies that everyone needs equal attention in the struggle for equality, which is simply not true and puts you in the position of ignoring that the problem exists. I'm sure a lot of you mean well, but if you've been hearing all the people talking about how you shouldn’t say "all lives matter" and have been unsure what the big deal is, there it is.
Second, I want to address my attitude towards the police. I'm not anti-police. There are “bad apples” in the police force who are racist or who abuse their power, which is unacceptable, but there are also many officers who genuinely want to serve and protect everyone equally, and I have a great respect for them. While I have questions about the design of the system, I do not hold a grudge against the many good men and women working in that system, and I recognize that law enforcement has a role to play. I know that isn't an easy job, especially at a time like this: thank you for what you do.
Friends, I am incredibly grieved.
Friends, I am incredibly grieved. I am grieved by ongoing racial inequality and injustices, despite the protests that have been taking place for years. I am grieved by the militarization of police forces against peaceful protests and the well meaning people who have been fired on by police. I am grieved for the journalists and bystanders who have been caught in the crossfire. I am grieved by the people who have taken advantage of the situation to steal, destroy property, or incite violence, at times in an effort to discredit the protesters. I am grieved for how long it has taken for police departments in some places to be open to discussing the issue and how some people in authority are unwilling to talk. I am grieved that police have lost their lives in clashes with rioters. I am grieved that business owners have lost property during an already difficult time. I am grieved by people who don’t consider themselves racist but aren’t willing to discuss, understand, or fight the ongoing racism in our country. I am grieved by the people who think this isn’t a big deal or look for any reason to discredit the movement and dismiss the issue. I am grieved by the lack of understanding by some people and their unwillingness to have open-minded discussions. I am grieved by the reaction of some in authority to take physical action against protestors rather than engage them in conversation. I am grieved by the fears that Black people have when leaving their house and the fact that they have to plead for the most basic of human rights: the right to life.
Black people deserve to be loved and respected members of the community, and yet we somehow live in a society where protestors are holding signs saying, "Black Lives Matter." That phrase isn't inclusive of things like equal education and job opportunities or equal access to healthcare; it's literally only asking for their lives to be treated with the same respect as the next person's. Things should not be this way. To anyone who reads this who has suffered from the many injustices built into our country and society, I want you to know that I am deeply sorry for what has happened. I want to hear what you have to say, I want your voices to be heard around the world, and I want to help reshape our culture to treat everyone as the equals God intended us to be.
Be anti-racist. Together let’s vote for changes to fix this problem.
I’ve heard an idea a lot lately which I really like and which has really challenged me to be more intentional: it’s not enough to not be racist, you need to be anti-racist. Simply put, being anti-racist is the practice of calling out racism when we see it, actively working against racist policies, and supporting people and communities of color who need our help. It's worth noting that "anti-racist" is not the same as "anti-racists;" a subtle semantic difference which clarifies that anti-racism is not about personal attacks that slander, harm, or necessarily cut out of your life, a person who is racist. Rather anti-racism is taking the next step from merely not being racist to actively working to end racism. (More Info)
The idea of anti-racism calls out people who do obviously racist things and then follow them up by saying, “I’m not racist,” as was the defense of the woman who recently called the police on a Black birdwatcher in Central Park whose presence apparently made her feel threatened. It also takes a jab at the many people who do not consider themselves to be racist, and may well not be racist, but aren’t actually opposed to racism either. For some people, while they may not call the cops on a bird watcher because he happens to be Black, they’re not necessarily quick to condemn racist events, admit that there is a problem of racism in our country, or push for any changes to be made. These people take a stance more of, “I’m not racist, I don’t know anyone who’s racist, I don’t think we should change anything.”
I think all of us who aren’t victims of racism can be guilty of this apathy periodically, but it’s high time that we get ourselves in gear and take racism seriously. If you are not racist, there is no reason to feel attacked by the Black Lives Matter movement or to try to deflect the problem of racism onto something non-racial. Instead, understand that there are still people and systems in our country which have racial biases that you and I need to oppose as long as they exist. If you are also a Christian, that is even more reason to stand against racism. If all the people who are not racist would join forces with those who are anti-racist, then maybe those biases could be broken down and a new society formed over time without the strongly racist pockets we see today.
Obviously change is a process and may look different for different people. But to get started, I suggest that we examine ourselves first and then the systems around us. We should truly consider whether we have any biases. We should listen to other people's stories and learn about the experiences of others nearby and across the country. We should listen to multiple stories because not everyone has the same story. We have to accept that some people will have different experiences than we do, even though questioning the things we're used to makes us uncomfortable.
From there, we should think about the system. Not just policing, as is in the news a lot right now, but also education, physical and mental healthcare, welfare, political involvement, and so on. In the interest of making attainable goals, you don't necessarily need to sit down and think through them all. But as things come up, we must consider whether the system in question is being fair to everyone or if it is giving an advantage to some people over others.
Since taking an interest in politics, I have noticed many historical and current policies which are unfair to specific groups of people, at times in the way that suits the political interests of the policy maker. For example, the American dream suggests that if anyone works hard enough they can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and build a life out of nothing, but I have found through my interactions with local impoverished communities that poor policies have resulted in the reality being, "It takes money to make money." I will never be able to experience life as anyone other than the white male that I am, but I can listen to the stories of others and accordingly vote for policies that help them as needed. In a country based on the principle of the people having a role in the government, doesn't each of us have the responsibility to call out bad policy, regardless of which side of the aisle it comes from? Personally, I don't care who built the system or who voted for it, and I don't care how many attempts at doing something good like helping the poor or ending racism have failed in the past. What I care about is that we do the right thing now, in a way that will actually work, accepting that reaching the desired outcome may be a long process.
So educate yourself about the life and experiences of Black Americans. Then, don't just think from your own perspective when you hear about policies and when you vote for officials. Think about how they will affect Black communities. And then vote to make the system less racist.
I'm a software developer. At work we build computer systems all the time. You build a system, add on to it, and somewhere down the line you realize that the structure of the system isn't working. It happens. You can't think of all the possible situations when you write the system. But you don't throw out the whole project or leave the system the way that it is, you remove the bad parts and overhaul it as necessary, rewriting the code in a way that works. That's what we need to do in our society and our country. We need to rewrite the code of the system—preserve what is good, throw out what is bad, and refine what has been poorly implemented—so that every injustice will be destroyed: so that no one will be harassed for the way they look, so that every child born in America will have an equal opportunity to become someone great, and so that no one will be murdered by the police.
If you are interested in additional resources, I've compiled a page of some great content from other people across the internet. Check it out here: BLM Resources
For more information, I would direct you to this article from Vox, which has a broad overview with many references.