Black Lives Matter Solidarity March
The pastor sent out a message asking the church to wear black on Sunday and to walk, if one was interested, in the Black Lives Matter Solidarity walk last Sunday in Oak Park.
I was at a dinner Friday night and one of the women very caustically stated they saw the email and deleted. “I’m not gonna walk or wear black. All lives matter.”
I think it might be easier to say ‘all lives matter’ if you have no skin in the game (forgive the pun) or if you think that by saying ‘black lives matter’ you’re saying the lives of policemen don’t or the lives of whites don’t. Or if you think that mystical, magical land of post racial is with us now.
But no one said that.
I was on the planning committee for that march and the story I shared about why this march mattered to me was this:
When I moved into my house, I moved into Mr. Honey’s house and his house is right next door to the house he grew up in. He has lived on this block his entire life. This street is the only street he’s known.
When I would be in the front yard or the back yard, I began to notice this car and the man inside it would just stare at me. First I thought I was imagining it but nope. Same car; same guy. I pointed it out to Mr. Honey who told me the guy lived four houses down from us but he thought I must have been imagining it, too.
Until the guy started driving down and staring even when Mr. Honey was with me. We were out front doing lawn work when the guy came down and stopped the car. Mr. H. put down his rake and started walking towards the car and the guy drove off – but just to the corner – and continued to stare until we started walking there as well and he drove away.
Now, I can easily dismiss this guy. In fact, I told Mr. Honey I thought it was a waste of gas for him to drive down and I would just go and stand in front of his house so he can stare at me from the comfort of his home. I could label him a sad, poor soul and go on about my business.
This guy went around the neighborhood telling his neighbors they had to get me out of the neighborhood. They couldn’t allow me to stay. They couldn’t allow a black person in the neighborhood.
Staring at me from a car is one thing and I was never intimidated by that but when he put words to that action and took action by trying to rally the neighborhood, he moved into an entirely new sphere. When was just staring, he was prejudice. The moment he spoke up and moved to garner support, he became a racist.
This wasn’t a moment when all lives mattered because this was, to this guy, about a black life – my black life. Maybe if I stood in front of his house with a sign that says: All Lives Matter…
You can tell me that guy is a jerk; a racist jerk even but the one you can’t tell me is that I had nothing to fear. If this guy had gotten encouragement from even one of the neighbors – this guy was a Chicago Firefighter – and we have policemen who live on the block – if he had a thumbs up from anyone – he could have been George Zimmerman before George Zimmerman was cool.
The scary guy in the room isn’t the one who says: ‘We have to run her out of here.” The scary guy is the other guy who says, “We can make that work.” Followed very closely by the third guy who says nothing.
People are lucky when they have neighbors who keep the music down, will loan them a lawnmower or who will take in their mail when they are on vacation .No one should be lucky to have neighbors that won’t run you out of the neighborhood.
Of course all lives matter but once in a while society allows itself to lose sight of that and a specific aspect becomes detached, not totally on its own. At those times, the rest of society needs to stop and say: “You matter.”
The rest of us need to stop and declare their worth not just for the benefit of the part but for the benefit of the whole. We have to know that equality isn’t the same as justice so saying ‘all lives matter’ may give the idea that everyone is the same but it dismisses the fact that everyone isn’t treated the same and it lets us off the hook when we value certain lives less.
Black lives matter because we need to know they do.
By the way, the guy never changed his mind about me; he died.