Sunday, March 13, 2016

What's wrong with saying all lives matter?

Photo by Gerry Lauzon

As a community, we're still waiting to hear from the Port Hope Police Association about their 'Blue Lives Matter' t-shirt campaign. If you don't know about it, click here to learn more.

While we wait, I thought I'd try to round up some answers to a question that's been asked a lot over the past few days: don't ALL lives matter?

The statement “black lives matter” is not an anti-white proposition. Contained within the statement is an unspoken but implied “too,” as in “black lives matter, too,” which suggests that the statement is one of inclusion rather than exclusion.
The lives of all human beings matter. That's a universal ideal. BlackLivesMatter was founded and is lead by three inspiring Black women — Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrice Cullers— out of a desire to draw attention to the specific way Black lives in America are systemically undervalued. They've written about the movement's Herstory on the BLM website and about their experience of watching the language of their movement be changed and coopted.
We’re not saying Black lives are more important than other lives, or that other lives are not criminalized and oppressed in various ways.  We remain in active solidarity with all oppressed people who are fighting for their liberation and we know that our destinies are intertwined.
And, to keep it real–it is appropriate and necessary to have strategy and action centered around Blackness without other non-Black communities of color, or White folks for that matter, needing to find a place and a way to center themselves within it.
Elsewhere I've read a few versions of the "dinner plate" analogy around the web, but this version from GeekAesthete on Reddit is winningly straightforward. 

A friend shared this terrific Storify feed, which gets right to the root of things from a White author's perspective.
I particularly identified with the last paragraph, where the author (appropriately @the_author_ on Twitter) talks about how relatively little backlash she's had compared to Black authors who address the same issues:
I think it's important to keep in mind how white privilege gives me a larger and safer opportunity to have this conversation without being excessively harassed - both highlighting the exact racism I'm discussing and the importance of having white people speak to one another when and how we can. 
I know that's the case for myself and many of the other women who've teamed up with me on this project, and I recognize that privilege.

I'm grateful to all who have asked tough questions, all who have shown openness, all who are asking questions. Please, everyone, keep sending and sharing your articles and stories (including to me). This process comes with growing pains and discomfort for many in our community and I want to acknowledge that. I believe we're working, together, toward a better community, a better Port Hope, a better Northumberland.

The way there from here is through dialogue, through education, through openness, and there's been a lot of that going on for the past few days. I know many of us look forward to welcoming the Port Hope Police Association into the conversation, to listen to what they have to say on these matters and to ask them our questions. In the meantime, we wait.

If you haven't yet, please consider signing our petition requesting the Port Hope Police Association stop the sale of t-shirts bearing the slogan "Blue Lives Matter," and issue an apology acknowledging this error. 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

What happens when you call out the police association's Blue Lives Matter campaign in a small town

Canada - ON - Town of Port Hope Police (very old style)

Photo by Dave Conner
A few days ago, I saw a tweet from the police department in a small town a few miles from my home, the town where I grew up and where my son goes to school. The Port Hope Police announced that they would be fundraising by selling T-shirts bearing the slogan "Blue Lives Matter."
A day or so after that, I tweeted the police to let them know the slogan was an offensive appropriation of the language of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Then I sent an email. Then I created a petition.
The T-shirts will no longer be sold by the Police Department at the station, but the Police Association (a separate entity made up of the same people) continues to sell them.

Some other local women have joined the discussion and we're working together to come up with positive ways of moving forward as a whole community. We don't aim to be armchair critics. We do want to participate in the creative action of accountability and restoration that are part and parcel of a healthy community. We believe the best immediate steps are for the Port Hope Police Association to stop selling "Blue Lives Matter" t-shirts, and to apologize and acknowledge that this was an error.

While we wait, with hope, for that outcome, here's a window into life over the past few days.

Here's what happens when you call out a small town police association's "Blue Lives Matter" campaign:

-you emphasize your overall support of the police, over and over
-you get warned that they may refuse your 9-11 call, that they are "known for their thuggery"
-a local news site ignores your messages, and instead prints the Police Association's press release
-you are accused of starting a "morally superior media circus"
-when you ask the police spokesperson for contact information for the Police Association, he gives you a PO Box number in an email sent from his Blackberry
-a news article about the police defending their fundraiser is shared on a horrifically racist Twitter feed promoting the hashtag #BlackLiesMatter
-messages telling you to shut up pile up in your Facebook "Other" inbox
-you sweat and shake and you do the interview anyway
-you calculate how many times you're likely to need the police in the future, just in case
-you realize your own immense privilege
-you brainstorm new slogans, new fundraising ideas
-you find yourself introduced in a newspaper article as "a woman"
-you learn a lot about the women who founded the #BlackLivesMatter campaign and their guiding principles*
-trolls universally want you to "get a job"
-you hear through back channels that some of the force's police officers and high ranking town officials agree with you — but none will speak publicly
-a neighbour, a woman of colour, tells you "a small scared part of me believes they knew what they were doing, a scared part of me believes they don't care how I'd feel seeing them wear those shirts"
-you have a growing collection of hater message screen caps, just in case
-just before hanging up, a reporter says "What do I call you: 'Cobourg mother of one?'" and you reply "I actually have two kids" and he's gone before you think to add anything more
-a local newspaper journalist announces on live radio that people of colour and women are more likely to be hired in Canada than "anyone else"
-you send Beyonce GIFs
-in a step out of the ordinary, you lock your door at night
-the local appliance repair guy calls into the local radio station to ask why it's so dangerous for people to criticize anything to do with the police
-you hear "It's just three words on a T-shirt" more times than you can count
-another Ontario Police Chief calls to tell you he understands your concern and to extend support
-you receive a message from a local woman of colour who wants to "personally thank you"

Click here to read more, or to sign the petition (please!).

*Click here to read more about #BlackLivesMatter and their incredible guiding principles: "We are committed to embodying and practicing justice, liberation, and peace in our engagements with one another."