K(now) Justice, K(now) Peace

Photo credit: Lorie Shaull

I know that it’s hard for some (White) people to comprehend what’s happening right now with the seemingly endless Black Live Matters protest marching on (did you catch that?). 

A crisis brings out the best and the very worst in all of us. 

2020 will be known as the “Year of the Pandemic”. I’m also hoping that it becomes the year when Black Lives (finally will) Matter too. The death of Black people at the hands of the law and racist vigilantes has dredged up centuries old community rage when enforcement is set upon innocent Black and Brown people. It’s not a myth or fairy-tale that we Black/Brown people have been sexualized, demonized, and terrorized by enforcers, but one written in fact. With all the information available regarding police brutality and inequities in our justice system, some would still believe that the mistreatment of Black, Indigenous & People of Color (BIPOC) is “Fake News”. These are likely also the same people who deny that the Holocaust ever happened as well. 

Recently, I’ve read some really nasty comments on Facebook and have seen news reports on television about people (White) whining about the disruption to their lives. I’m not disputing that, but for me, the idea of returning “back to normal” has a completely different meaning. Why would I (we) want to return to a time in America when a majority demographic would simply turn away when seeing a Black man killed and think that it was okay? Now that America is being confronted on a daily basis about racism, the less open-minded folks feel uncomfortable and out of place. My home city of Portland, Oregon has become a flashpoint in the global media for something other than it’s beautiful rose gardens, food scene, and regular weirdness. Now, we’re in the news for the federal government asserting its influence in suppressing demonstrations under the guise of the protection of federal property. If you look at the news you would think that the entire city has become a battleground of protests and social unrest. In truth, there are only a few locations of disturbance. The main hot spot is located in downtown Portland at the Federal Justice Center. The other location hits a little closer to home, and I mean within 3 blocks from our house at the Portland Police Union building. 

Things related to racism, for lack of a better analogy, are never truly black or white, although this time they pretty much are. In recent years, the subject of race has been too hot to handle and has never gained the necessary mainstream traction to demand the broader attention of the masses until now. The spark igniting this fiery uprising stems from the graphic violence of a White oppressor (police) forcibly declaring dominance over the body of a Black person. This time, rather than the police being the enforcer, it’s the commander-in-chief wielding his bloated authority to send federal officers into Portland to squash protests that don’t conform to his narrative. I’m not denying there hasn’t been damage to property and blow to the image of the city. These are things that can be painted over or replaced. The violence that we’ve seen (the world too) and that some of our friends have personally experienced, is a distraction from the core protest of Black Lives Matter movement. 

I applaud the protesters who show up time and time again to let their voices be heard in Portland and throughout the country. Black Lives Matter isn’t a hate group as Mr. Trump has frequently tweeted. It’s not an organization that has had its members fire-bomb a church killing innocent children, terrorized people for attempting to vote, nor has Black Lives Matter burned crosses on the lawns of families living where they believed that family didn’t belong. Mr. Trump, the Ku Klux Klan is a real hate group! It’s sad that there are even members of Eric’s (my partner) extended family that believe this too. Several of them live in mostly rural areas of the country so honestly, it’s not a huge surprise. Anyone who can’t see the difference is well…a racist and only wants to continue oppressing a population that is demanding justice for centuries of abuse and inequitable treatment. Why is it difficult for some (White) people to accept the truth behind a movement? Is it White Fragility, or White guilt?

Believe it or not, the BLM marches in Portland honoring the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many other Black people have been peaceful, despite what has been broadcast around the globe. The chants of No Justice, No Peace continue to echo on the city streets throughout the country. A byproduct from all the social strife and sorrow of this time, have been the beautiful murals and portraits that have sprouted up all over the city, along with some amazing photographs documenting these historic events. Many local artists have captured the moment in time by reflecting the soul of the movement in their artistry. Even some businesses have recruited these talented artisans to cover their naked paneled and Covid-shuttered shops with artwork as a deterrent for theft and support of Black Lives Matter.   

That’s not to say that there haven’t been factions (Antifa?) set in place to distract, detract, or co-opt the social value of the march by those who chose to use this moment to incite violence, and cause destruction all while chanting Black Lives Matter.  

I’m not intending on throwing shade on anyone, but in my opinion, I think our Portland mayor engaged too late in the game to be effective. I know running a city is hard work, and I’m also not implying that he wasn’t engaged behind the scenes coordinating other efforts that made him less visual in the eyes of many constituents. Because this current civil disturbance is race related, it thereby prompted Portland City Commissioner Joann Hardesty (the first Black woman to serve on Portland city council) to step up and be recognized as a city leader. When he finally did make an appearance to address the mayhem protesters at the federal building, he got hit with teargas by federal troops. He later said that he didn’t observe anything at the moment to warrant having teargas used. 

For anyone outside of a liberal bubble, ask yourself, what is holding me back from creating change in my community or state that will benefit everyone? What can I do to educate myself about systemic racism? These are the questions I would ask in order to shape the outcomes to create a more equitable future. However, you first have to be receptive to listening, learning, and putting the words of promise into action. 

#BlackLivesMatter #RIPJohnLewis #Vote2020 #whitesilenceisprivilege

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