I admit it. Black Lives Matter was a hard sell for me. The lives I love the most in this world are the lives of my kids and my husband. Those are Asian lives. Watching pop culture racist jokes hurled by Black celebrities at Asian people just made me angrier. Chris Rock can go suck an egg.
“Why the hell do you get to go first?”
I am also a long time unofficial “keeper of the secrets” for my profession. I have heard years of story after story about powerful ministers who use their status in a gender and power bias dogfight against the religious educators over whom they hold authority: they call in a woman for a meeting and then slide her “pre-written” letter of resignation across the table with a warning to sign or they will ruin her good name; they threaten that a job might “be in jeopardy” if a particular social justice program is enacted; or they just go ahead and order all the supplies for the latest curriculum trend, even though the religious educator has clearly said it’s not the best course for their program, because they are the boss. I have heard from these people who call with tears in their eyes and sometimes a drink in their hand: “What can I do? I have to submit to my minister, I need this job.”
Sexism. Misogyny. Patriarchy. And it’s BAD.
But, I think I get the why behind Black Lives Matter and the need to focus here first, why sometimes we have to focus on a central issue. I get it.
It’s freakin’ triage. It’s the core of it all.
Say you are drinking coffee at your local coffee shop and a bus plows into the building across the street. You run across the street into the carnage of fellow humans who are shaped in unholy angles and bleeding bright red blood. Do you say “well, now, all of these lives matter and so I’m going to serve each equally in turn.”
No. Nope. You don’t. You assess who is in the greatest need. That’s who you help first. Those in the greatest danger of death. You fix the most broken things first. Not that you ignore the other folks, no, you do that too. But priorities, please.
So we focus on #BlackLivesMatter not to the exclusion of other things. We learn about the way we are ALL taught, not just White people, to center whiteness. It’s insidious. We focus on the voices of people who are not the most privileged. Not choosing the one voice that agrees with us over the chorus of voices that don’t, but listening, listening, listening. We try to have compassion for those who feel newly oppressed because losing the center of focus can feel like oppression, but you know what? If they don’t learn to see what’s up, then they gotta go somewhere else. Move on.
We remind ourselves of what my former colleague, Lena Gardner, writes: “…fixing the centrality of white supremacy specifically against Black folks will help lift all boats and is deeply interwoven with other forms of oppression.”
We know that we’ve got to start here. Yes, my Asian family members face discrimination and oppression. Yes, my beloved colleagues face discrimination and oppression. No one is saying this isn’t part of the story.
But there is work to be done, and we need to stop standing on the sidewalk, arms crossed in anger, fighting about who is bleeding. Time to get in and fight for justice or…get the hell out.