My turn, ashlove: On black lives matter, the chant of our time
Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 14, 2020
There’s a chant some may be familiar with; it’s more of a spiritual wail — the hum or moan most recognizable in the African spiritual tradition, an anthem and lamentation wrapped in the obituaries of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Ahmad Arbery (just to name a few), a petition to be human in a world which habitually determined otherwise: black lives matter.
We live in a world, a community that a proclamation that could save the lives of so many, is a mere nuisance to the white community; Contrastingly arguing all lives matter though Black people routinely roast in the proverbial fires of white supremacy. My friends, if you believe that all lives matter, then Black life should live and should thrive.
In Salisbury, I watched children of every race run from gunfire in the air in the name of a Confederate monument; those children proclaimed in the street, black lives matter. In Salisbury, I watched teenagers of every race, gender, sexual orientation and class courageously holler in the face of systems of oppression, black lives matter. And though the children of this community give me hope, I am terrified in the ways that James Baldwin says, I am “terrified of the moral apathy and death of the heart” in this country — what our community needs is a revival.
I love Salisbury, I feel deeply drawn to this community — love brought me here, love is why I stay here. Nevertheless, there is work to be done to dismantle a dark history of white supremacy and terrorism — to reconcile a history of lynching — beyond educational programs and memorials, though those, too, are important. We have an opportunity in our community to act before any further trauma ensues on the lives of the most marginalized. We have an opportunity to have a moral awakening, a revival of the death of any heart because we love our community. To love our community is to love Every. Single. Life. To love our community means black lives matter.
Here’s what needs to happen next — to the white community, say it: Black Lives Matter; and maybe if you resonantly declare the existential significance of a Black human’s life, you will join a movement to disassemble the system built to destroy and abuse Black human life.
There are some community conversations that I refuse to have, here’s why: Black people have the historical, statistical and experiential corroboration that racism exists and manifests in our community, yet we waste away to prove such in every community conversation. In most instances, we’re both proving we deserve to live and be treated equitably; we also prove that we are not living and being treated inequitably. The aforementioned is especially traumatic for any human body but particularly for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) — and my rebuttal is often drenched in the desire for our systems to publicly admit that racism exists and revolutionize the systems that perpetuate such; it is because now is the time for action, it is not the time for appeasement.
White privilege is to exist in a world and make decisions about how that world runs and never having to be impacted by those decisions; it is to walk in downtown Salisbury and feel safe; it is to be pulled over by the cops and not have to worry about taking your last breath; it is to make a budget decision about Rowan Transit and not ride Rowan Transit to and from work; it is to not see the safety risk of a Confederate monument in the center of our city until a gun is shot in the presence of children; it is to prefer BIPOC wait on justice and equity. Most of us love to quote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. but he has this to say about waiting and privilege, “…when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance never quite knowing what to expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness;” then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into an abyss of injustice where they experience the blackness of corroding despair.” He says more but I encourage you to read thoroughly his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”
White privilege is a cancer that can consume your entire physical mass unless identified and challenged or, better yet, eradicated. White supremacy needs aggressive treatment in our community in order to restore the safety and humanness of every person in Salisbury.
In order to resist being complacent in white supremacy, you have to believe that I’m human — you have to believe that a world exists that is not just to Black, Indigenous and People of Color.
So. This is our first time together, maybe your first time reading anything that I’ve written and my step one is to say it: Black Lives Matter. Then, join me and many others to work against any system, group or individual that says otherwise.
Now is the time to work for the lives of the most marginalized in our country and in Salisbury, and we don’t have to wait on that.
ashlove is a macro social worker, community strategist, activist, author and artist.