#BlackLivesMatter #UMD

BlackLivesMatter UMD
BlackLivesMatter UMD Solidarity event. Image from the diamondbackonline.com

I was very honored to be a part of the Office of Diversity & Inclusion’s #BlackLivesMatter solidarity event at the University of Maryland. In a fight that seems never-ending and is all-encompassing, it is important to have moments to pause, reflect, exhale, and build connections. A few of the thoughts I shared at the event , as well as ones that I didn’t get a chance to share, are below:

On why our focus should be BLACK lives matter:

For too long our focus has been on systematically marginalizing and excluding Black lives. The focus on Black lives matter acknowledges the ways that anti-black racism permeates our society, and we can see this not only through deaths of black men and black women by police force but also in other policies, laws, and media and effects that are translated into differential outcomes such as in education, in earnings, in housing, in jobs.  And this focus on Black lives matter also acknowledges the ways that other groups are valued or even privileged in ways that Blacks are not.

This call to action and call to consciousness is necessary so that we can no longer ignore or feign ignorance about the ways that Black lives are devalued, dehumanized, and destroyed. And these truths about our national history and the structure of our society are difficult for some to acknowledge, let alone accept, and that is why we hear these calls for all lives matter or blue lives matter or my life matters. But in order to get to a place where all lives matter in the eyes of the law or where all lives matter equally or where all lives are understood as lives of value and worth, we have to proclaim Black lives matter, and we proclaim it as a way to identify how Black lives have not been believed or treated to matter in the past and in the present.

So this focus on Black lives matter is a way to say, I see the injustices and inequalities that persist and that I may even have been complicit in due to silence or ignoring, but I cannot allow this to continue, and I will do what I can to make it a truth that Black lives matter in our country and in our world.

On solidarity:

Solidarity means coming together with people of different races, ages, genders, and positions to rally behind this one cause. To put aside our personal interests and privileges and to be persistent in declaring that Black lives matter. And it also means commitment, not only in this moment or past moments, but the moments that are to come. Commitment when you are the only one, commitment when friends, family, classmates, loved ones dislike you, commitment when people divest in you because of your beliefs.

On multiracial solidarity and our role:

Multiracial solidarity is necessary because multiracial complicity has perpetuated racism. We are all implicated in where we are now. And solidarity means a persistent engagement with fighting against anti-black racism from the moment we wake up to when we go to sleep, because we are bombarded all day with messages in music, on tv, ads, in our classrooms, in our churches, even in our families that are anti-black, racist. But we all have a platform and we must use it. It could be our dorm, our families, twitter, a blog. Whatever it is, we have to use it. Because solidarity is not just in our minds. Solidarity is an act.

On staying engaged:

This is difficult work to do because 1. it challenges the U.S. ideal of meritocracy, 2. individuality and personal responsibility, and 3. our own privilege. In other words, it makes us challenge our core ideas of who we are and the world we live in. So, this is difficult work of us to do not only for those of us fighting for acknowledgement of anti-Black racism and equity but also for those that we engage with who are on the other side. And this work is exhausting. It never ends. It is both the conscious engagement in the struggle as well as the moments when you are merely trying to pick up something to eat and overhear someone explaining how Freddie Gray could have severed his own spine or when you are out watching a game and fellow spectator uses the rallying cry of, “I Can’t Breathe” flippantly that wears you down. So, you have to take care of yourself – mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually.

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On the Metro

Earlier this afternoon I was headed to meet a cohort member for brunch. I jumped on the metro, which was quite crowded, but managed to grab an open seat next to someone. After a few seconds I realize, Eww the guy I’m sitting next to smells; so I contemplate if I can discretely change seats at the next stop.

As I’m devising a plan to get away from the funk, the guy nudges me. I have my headphones on so as to discourage anyone from talking to me, but clearly this guy didn’t get the message. I take my headphones off and turn towards him. That’s when I notice the tattoo over his right eyebrow that says, “I AM SWAG,” the diamond tattooed under his eye, and the constellation of shooting stars down his neck.

He asks me where I’m from. I tell him, and then ask him the same. Through the next 5 metro stops he leads the conversation, covering a wide-range of topics. He shared how important it is to not be persuaded by other people’s expectations of you. When you get caught up in other people’s dreams and plans for you, he says, you can end up doing things that you never intended, things that can end up causing you harm. He then said that it’s so important to read the Bible so that you can have a foundation to draw from when you’re faced with different and difficult situations.

By that time, I had reached my stop. I thanked him for sharing. In the time it took to cover 5 metro stops, this guy shared more knowledge and wisdom than a lot of ‘educated’ people ever do. I truly felt blessed and humbled by our conversation.

Sometimes we all have to be reminded not to pass judgment and that everyone has a message to share if we are just open to receiving it. Blessings come from the most unexpected places, and God uses those who we perceive to be the least among us to share His word. And to think, I was trying to get away from this guy.

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