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We Are Drugs

Why’s It So Hard To Say Black Lives Matter?

Eric Garner. Michael Brown. Freddie GrayAlton SterlingPhilando Castile.

These are only a handful of names that our nation is familiar with as the result of police brutality against Blacks in America. Deaths of these men and many more innocent black citizens led to an uprising, protests, and movement across the country. We saw a great divide that had long been ignored in our nation, the chasm opening wider, the chaos of those who had been left to fall in and were trying desperately to escape.

Incidents proving that systematic racism was a long-ignored problem here in America continued to mound. Along with the deaths that gained world wide attention, there were smaller instances of police brutality against Blacks. Specifically, there were a number of cases where teens were attacked by police, being tackled or thrown to the ground and handcuffed for no discernible reason. Some of these attacks lead to injuries, as in the case of Shakara, subject of Third Eye Blind’s 2016 single Cop vs. Phone Girl.

The primary reason for the video of Shakara’s attack going viral and drawing national attention was not because she was attacked by an officer, nor was it solely due to her race or age. These, unfortunately, are all things that we have begun to see far to often with the ease of record and release media thanks to smart phones. The reason Shakara’s story went viral was because, unlike the other attacks on juveniles who were at pool parties or parks, Shakara was at school.

We hear about discrimination in schools, but how many people have witnessed it first hand? How much of it is really addressed? How much of it is brushed under the carpet?

I read a story some time back about a child in Texas who came home with rope burns on her neck from classmates. She had horrific, deep cuts from the rope. The school dismissed it as an accident, did not investigate, nor even notify her parents of the incident. The girl was pulled from school for the remainder of the year because her parents feared for her safety.

Recently I saw a video on Facebook, a young girl named Nasir terrified to go to school in suburban Bellevue, Washington. Why? She had been taunted an attacked by classmates, faculty, and staff.

She told her story and plead for help to #BackDownTheBully , help to make things better for her and children like her. These children, young children in elementary schools across the nation, are suffering the consequences of our divided nation, of a social climate that has allowed room for hate to sustain and grow for too long. THIS IS NOT THEIR BATTLE. This is NOT okay.

I will never forget the day that I was driving in my car and became aware of how this social climate was affecting my own children. They were in the back seat. Out of nowhere my daughter says to me, “mom, did you know that cops like to kill black people?”

Photo Credit to Kristi Carlson Photography

I couldn’t believe my ears. I asked her what she had said, hoping I had heard her wrong but also knowing I heard her exactly right. She was 3 at the time. She is also half black. She repeated herself, so matter-of-factly… My heart sunk. I cried.

I talked to the girls. I talked to their father. I talked to my parents. I talked to my friends. We took a field trip to the police station where they got a tour of the station and got to sit in the front of a car. I did everything I could think of to try and teach my girls that the message they heard wasn’t true.

Courtesy: Lizette McMillen

That was during the height of Black Lives Matter, when it was on every news channel and online outlet all day, every day. So, later, when I heard Cop vs. Phone Girl come out… I was torn. I was happy to hear a song taking a stand, especially with it coming from my favorite band. However, it was also hard to listen to and really allow myself to take in. It was too familiar and was tied to something that I didn’t want to feel. When I finally gave it an earnest listen, with my full attention and my guard down, I cried. A lot. Looking at the world at the time, I just kept thinking how that could be my girls someday…

Seeing the video of Nasir brought that feeling back this Summer. That could be my girls…

Now here we are, mid-August, and children across the country are returning to their classrooms, including my own. When you hear the term back-to-school there’s probably a handful of things that come to mind: kids dressed in new clothes, waking up early, reuniting with their friends, meeting new friends and their teachers, the sense of structure that comes with a clock-work schedule, and a break for parents who were at the end of their patience - yay! But what about the kids who face discrimination while at school, children like Nasir? Back-to-school isn’t such a happy time for those kids, nor for the parents who have these worries weighing heavy on their hearts and minds.

I saw an video released by the National Women’s Law Center where they highlighted the discrimination that Black females experience at school and then took those words used against the girls to uplift and empower them (Shakara was included in this project) with a plea to schools to #LetHerLearn

This is what we need - to empower our children. To help them rise out of adversity (I touched on this in a recent article by Bella Wolff where she had asked for my input, both of us being minorities with mixed-raced children). However, what we have is a broken system that refuses to do so. Instead, what we have is perpetuated hate and entire people groups being treated as second class citizens - and this is nothing new! Refer to James Baldwin addressing this same issue back in 1965:

As I type this, the city of Charlottesville, VA is in a declared State of Emergency with white supremacists marching and chanting “white lives matter,” with nazi flags and tiki torches, plowing down people with cars, and being allowed to carry on - on a college campus no less! When Black Lives Matter hit the streets, armed forces were called in to control them immediately; Force was used against them. Yet, in Charlottesville, these hate-spewing bigots have had an underwhelming response from authorities and even have their own armed militia on site. NONE OF THIS is okay!

Not to be cliche, but I have to quote Nelson Mandala and say that,

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion.”

I have to quote Stephan Jenkins and say,

“All the kids are alright!”

And I have to call out to all us grown ass American citizens and say ENOUGH! The world is ugly right now, but it doesn’t HAVE to be, especially not for our CHILDREN! Schools should be a place that is safe, a neutral ground. If people are fighting in the streets, maybe they need to be, maybe a riot IS overdue. This fight is not for the children, though. Do not indoctrinate them, nor should they be expected to hold their own. Let them be children! Again, this is NOT their battle. It is OURS.

The stories that I referenced... I don’t want that to be my child. I don’t want that to be your child. I don’t want that to happen to ANY child. Yet it happens ALL THE TIME! We, COLLECTIVELY, need to do EVERYTHING in our power to make this STOP!

Not everyone is a fighter, a rioter, a take-to-the streets protester. That is OKAY - but we have to do SOMETHING. I don’t have all the answers here; There is no simple solution. I do know, though, that hate is born of fear and most fear is based in the unknown. So go out there! Get to know people and let people know you! Engage with the world! Participate in civil discourse! Create art! Break down those barriers! Fight the good fight! And regarding the children - GIVE THEM YOUR TIME! Volunteer at a school, start some kind of program, be a mentor - DO SOMETHING to invest in our youth and teach them how to LOVE - and that they are LOVED! THIS WILL INSPIRE THEM! You - WE - can make a difference! Sitting still and silent is NOT an option unless you’re okay allowing the hate and fear to grow.

Photo Credit to PaulasPhotoArt

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

THIS MATTERS! Don’t sit it out! Don’t give in…. #RESIST

I wrote this essay late Saturday night with a heavy heart and a burning inside my soul. The stories and statements made had been weighing on me and building up all Summer long. I was waiting for the right time, because more and more continued to come to my mind and attention, like pieces of a puzzle all falling together. After the events of this past weekend, I knew this was the right time. To put these words down, to make these stories heard and kept relevant, to make their stories and my stories one united front - though still dismayed by the time I finally went to bed at 4 a.m., I felt so much better. When I woke Sunday morning, one of the first things I saw was live coverage of the March For Racial Justice on Facebook. That was the only coverage I saw of it that day while laboring to get all the links and embedding codes organized for this article release (21 in all), but it was a light for me knowing that those people were my people, like-minded and fighting the good fight, actively working toward a better future for us all.

Today, Monday, I met my daughter's new teacher. She's new to our school and was still organizing the classroom. My daughter was curious to explore her new environment, the room she'll spend half her waking hours in, every week day for the greater part of the next 10 months. Like most 5 year old girls, she went straight for the corner that was set up with a kitchen and table and props to play house. She pulled out a basket of dolls, all of which were white. I didn't realize the teacher was watching until she commented, "I think we need to get some dolls in other colors," with a smile. She gets it... I think it's going to be a good year.

Courtesy: Lizette McMillen