Yesterday, even as a lone voice called to kill the police, it was repeatedly drowned out by the young people of all colors chanting, “Black Lives Matter, Say His Name, Say Her Name, No Justice, No Peace.” On this day, a blind hate did not overcome impassioned and honest cries for Justice.
My Asian son taught me the meaning of #BlackLivesMatter. He signed on early to the movement, long before I was willing to even try to understand the reality of Black Lives, long before I was willing to understand the racism my own son faced, long before I was willing to be humble, stand up and lend my own voice.
Even as a boy, John was willing to stand up for Black Lives in general and for his friends specifically. He has always seen color. He has always been a person of color. He has always understood that even as a person of color, his experience was very different from those with brown and black skin. His life experience was always a little safer, a little softer, a little less scrutinized. The expectations on him were not the same. Not the same as his black and brown friends, not the same as his white siblings.
I asked him this past week how he felt about the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and he reminded me that he’s always been on board. Since the beginning. Since he was still a child. He knows it wasn’t universally popular in our extended family. His #BlackLivesMatter t-shirt disappeared from a family gathering one year never to be seen again. He’s always known instinctively that we weren’t ready, and he accepted that, perhaps just waiting for us to get our shit together. I like to think that we finally have (at least some of us), that we finally understand, as he does, that the experience of black people has no comparison, that in order for lives to improve for all people, life must improve first and foremost for Black People.
We live in a black and white world where we see people as good or bad, black or white, racist or not, just or unjust. We befriend, unfriend, praise and belittle based on nothing, based on appearance, cursory interactions, skin color, zip code and language.
And when we memorialize and choose our idols, we intentionally overlook their faults, their shortcomings and, in doing so, we overlook all that makes them human. Our heroes and antiheroes don’t need to be faultless, only their intent need be true.
In a just world, no one should have to be perfect to be treated with respect, to be treated humanely, to be treated as a human, to be treated as we ourselves want to be treated.