- Caleb Walsh illustration
There is an irony of the #AllLivesMatter response to the #BlackLivesMatter movement that so many people miss. It's this: The people who are against the movement are doing it by stating the actual hope of the BLM movement — that they will be as valued and precious as white people. Since the inception of this great nation, when a marginalized group is valued less than the majority group, they must stand up for themselves against the inequities and injustices.
You can get on any social media platform right now and read all sorts of pointed, poignant and truthful commentary on the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, the most recent black lives to end at the hands of police. This has to end.
We must demand that our society reevaluates its comfort with the implicit bias, racism and privilege of the majority society. White people have been the majority society since the genocide of most of the 80 to 100 million indigenous people who were here pre-Columbus. It wasn't enough to eradicate a whole continent of brown people; colonizers enslaved 4 million African and black people as well.
America has a 500-year history of being a place of pain, degradation, rape, pillage and violence for brown people. Sure, there have been strides in changing our society for the better. We have the first African American president, for instance. But that accomplishment is not enough.
How do I know it's not enough? Because of the fear I have for my brother as he walks down the street or drives to work. He is a free man contributing to society, but I have no doubt that my big, brown, tatted brother would be shot if he didn't immediately show his belly to those who have badges and guns.
He could be pulled over in his car, shot while my two beautiful baby nieces are in car seats in the back. I know this is possible. I know that he could be in compliance with the police requests, but they could be too afraid and shoot him for breathing too hard. And I know that Native men are the most likely group to die at the hands of law enforcement, and my fear is real and valid and worthy of respect.
But my fear for my brother doesn't freeze me; it motivates me. I don't want any more unwarranted death for brown, red, blue, green, orange, black, white and rainbow-colored people. I believe that all lives in fact do matter and each human is precious and worthy of life. I will do my part to ensure that the #BlackLivesMatter and #NativeLivesMatter movements are completely unneeded, because those marginalized communities would no longer be killed at a higher rate than their white counterparts. Or police wouldn't kill any innocent people at all. My job is to do whatever I can to help make that happen.
We must all do our part. First, we have to stop invalidating the experiences and very real fear felt by members of these movements. Then we must work together to create a world where black and brown (and white) mothers will know that their children will not die at the hands of our very own police force. I'd think that is something we would want for every mother. And I would like very much for this fear for my brother to ease in my heart. ♦
Tara Dowd, an enrolled Inupiaq Eskimo, was born into poverty and now owns a diversity consulting business. She is an advocate for systemic equity and sees justice as a force that makes communities better.