the problem of where to wear my Black Lives Matter t-shirt

Posted: May 19, 2016 in Uncategorized

I bought a Black Lives Matter t-shirt some time ago.  While leaving the grocery store one day, a beautiful lady in one of those shirts walked by me, and I wanted to stop her and ask where she’d gotten it, but she didn’t smile at my smile and I had no idea how she’d respond to some white lady wanting a shirt like hers.  I came home and asked my good friend Amazon, and was promptly rewarded with that I sought, per usual.

The shirt took so long to come that I’d nearly forgotten having ordered it.  Once it was in my possession, I realized my dilemma with this shirt is the same as with my Jesus Loves Porn Stars shirt:  where am I gonna wear it?

I don’t wear it to family stuff nor to church, because in both places there are folks in law enforcement, and I’m woefully acquainted with the fact that some folks in that line of work read Black Lives Matter as F*ck the Police.  For me, that couldn’t be further from the truth – my brother is a cop and I’m very proud of him, and I was intentional in teaching my kids that policemen are our friends.

For me, Black Lives Matter is NOT that.  Not in the least.  I get that it is, for some inside the movement, and I get that it looks like that, for some outside it.  But it’s not what I mean.  I am 100% in support of good cops, and so I don’t wear my Black Lives Matter shirt into intimate settings like family or church, where someone might read it in a way I don’t mean it and then a wall might leap up between us that I might not be able to tear back down.

I bought my Black Lives Matter t-shirt because I am also 100% in support of people who are not the same color as me being able to live and move as freely as I am in their every day lives, and because I’m painfully aware of how much many aren’t that free.

I bought it because it hurts my heart that mothers of black children have to be so intentional in teaching their kids how not to be mistaken for a criminal – how not to accidentally end up in trouble or worse while just going about their days.

I bought it because as I educate myself regularly and with stoic intention, I come across more and more statistics and stories that help me understand that racism isn’t a thing we *used to* struggle with in our country – that people of color are at a disadvantage from before they are even born, TODAY, on so many fronts it makes me dizzy to try to take it in.

I bought it because as I delve ever deeper into our history as a country, I see that the roots of this problem are deeper and more pervasive than I began to imagine at a younger age.

I bought it because reading years ago about the invisible knapsack that I carry through life by virtue of a choice I didn’t even make – the color of my skin – brought sudden clarity to me like nothing had before and permanently changed my perspective.

I bought it because some of the misbehavior my own son indulged in as a teen could have brought him an instant death sentence in the street without trial or representation, were he another color, and many would have risen up and explained that he’d brought it on himself…but since he’s white it was just a bit of mischief and was indulged while he explored and pushed boundaries with the arrogance that only a teenager can possess.  I bought it because during that passage, I had the great luxury of being indignant on his behalf rather than terrified that I might lose him in an instant.

I bought it because even as hard as I’ve worked to move past the prejudices that I’ve learned or that were innately in me as a member of this broken planet, I STILL discover my own racism on a basis so regularly that it shames and horrifies me.

I bought it because sure, *all* lives matter, but I don’t go to cancer awareness events to carry a protest sign that they’re not focusing on AIDS research.

I bought it because the problems with some (not good) cops are not really about cops at all – they are about who we are as a culture, about what we believe, and there are people with vicious intention in all walks of life who exercise their power to the detriment of others who have less power.  Because the problem of the clashes between some police and some black human beings is just a symptom, and not the core problem.

I bought it because a whole lot of people that I know and love, who are really wonderful folks, who would do just about anything for just about anyone, who love and try to follow Jesus (or whatever other good thing they believe in)…are still pretty blind to their own invisible knapsack, and so they hold some pretty harsh views.

I bought it because I’m pretty sure I’m never going to get this right, but I’m trying with all my might, and I really do believe the quote on the t-shirt I keep seeing (and would like to buy, but I think I’d just own another t-shirt I couldn’t wear most of the time) that says, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”  And I know for sure that Jesus ain’t on the side of the oppressor.  And I want to be on HIS team.

So.  If you run into me in my Black Lives Matter t-shirt, take a moment to remember that I don’t mean F*ck the Police – that I got it because my heart is broken about who we are as a culture, and I’m trying to DO stuff that matters, but also I’m a writer, so words matter a lot to me.

God have mercy on us, that these conversations are so darn hard.

 

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Comments
  1. Sheina Renée says:

    I totally get what you are saying here. I sometimes feel caught between the “Black Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter” mantras. I have a good friend who used to be an officer who posts a lot of Blue Lives Matter things. It’s all left me on the side of “All Lives Matter.” I know you believe that too and I get what you are saying about the world we live in. I’ve read you long enough to know I can disagree with something and not be chastised for not agreeing with you. I just don’t like either slogan. I land on the side of ALL LIVES MATTER because just as not all cops are bad, not all black people are good and not all white people are good. Criminals are criminals and deserve to be treated as such and justice should be doled out no matter what color or economic class or whatever other bias some choose to dole justice out on. If I see you wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt I will not treat you any different – you have every right to express what matters to you in whatever way you want! 🙂

  2. Kathy W says:

    How about sewing it up into a pillow case? Your sofa could wear “Jesus loves poem stars”, Black lives matter”, etc., in your own home, and anybody visiting would be able to ask, if they want, in a quiet intimate place where you can discuss it.

  3. Kathy W says:

    Actually, I kinda like the idea of an “opinion couch”. I wonder what one in my own house would say. Does everybody, all seven of us, get an opinion? How many pillows are too many?

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