Category Archives: United States

Black Lives Need to Matter

 

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So many White people are upset with the Black Lives Matter movement. “All lives matter,” a friend said to me the other day at coffee. “Why are those people so divisive?”

At yoga, the instructor asked, “Why did they interrupt Bernie Sanders and Jeb Bush? It’s so rude.”

It was hard to quiet my mind after her question. During the class, my brain worked over time figuring out what was happening and where I stood. I must admit I’m a Rodney King kind of person–my knee jerk question is always “Why can’t we all just get along?” And I was raised to always be polite, always.

But there comes a time when you don’t have the leisure for good manners. The leaders of the Black Lives Matter Movement feel that is now. They don’t want another Sandra Bland to die because of police brutality. Or a Michael Brown or Freddie Gray.

Yes, all lives matter, but historically in America, Black lives haven’t. Black Lives Matter is a movement that wants to shake up the status quo NOW so more Blacks don’t die. It’s specific because it needs to be.

The grass roots movement was co-founded by three black activists: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi after the July 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting of Trayvon Martin. After the 2014 deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum. In both cases, grand juries didn’t indict the officer and no charges were brought. The conclusion to not only the Black community: Black lives don’t seem to matter and the justice system is skewed. Two tools, which are making this obvious to everyone, are cell phone videos and social media. You can’t argue with what has been recorded and social media is spreading the word.

peaceful march.

peaceful march.

Black Lives Matter seems to be focused right now on getting Presidential candidates to develop policies that will ensure racial justice. An excellent goal, but are they going about it the right way?

In August, in my hometown of Seattle, Bernie Sanders’ speech was disrupted by a group who walked onstage, grabbed the microphone from him and shouted at the audience that they were racists and White Supremacists. Sanders looked bewildered, but the next day issued a racial justice policy.

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Hillary Clinton’s bodyguards weren’t having it, but she did meet privately with the leaders of the Black Lives Matter protest. She told Julius Jones, a Black Lives Matter activist, “I don’t believe you change hearts. I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate.”

Clinton defines the practical, but I believe changing hearts should not be overlooked. Shouting, “All whites are racist!” may feel good in the moment. Disrupting political meetings may make demonstrators feel powerful when they’ve only felt powerless before—but is this how to create lasting change? It’s got shock value, but is it detrimental to the end goal of not only saving black lives, but making black lives worth living? Or does it allow Fox News to target it as a Murder Movement, suggesting it promotes cop killings?

Three Black Lives Matter leaders

Three Black Lives Matter leaders

 

In a television interview I watched, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi discuss their goals. Articulate and well spoken, I was convinced by their arguments. I now wear a pin that shows I support the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter

This is more of what we need. Don’t make me defensive by calling me a white supremacist—I am not a George Lincoln Rockwell. It’s the events that have knocked off my rose colored glasses, not the violent protests. Now continue to show me, educate me, open my eyes. Then use me and my resources, white though they may be, to help bring about necessary change.

 

 

Race in America: The Courage of Rabbi Teitelbaum

The Ava DuVernay film, Selma, is such an excellent film with such fine acting that I felt transported back to the 1960’s while I watched it. The film centers around the Selma to Montgomery March for voting rights in 1965. Although this was an African American movement, many Jewish people were involved in the civil rights struggle. Not only were the horrors of the Holocaust still fresh, but most of us had grandparents and parents who had fled bigotry and oppression. We wanted to help end the same type of hateful acts in America, the Free.

I remember admiring the people who went to the South to march, putting their very lives at risk. My parents would never have let me go and I doubt that I had the courage to do it anyway. But, I do know someone who did have the courage to stand behind Dr. King and other leaders in the March: Rabbi David Teitelbaum. He is the brother and uncle of friends of mine.

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Recently President Obama spoke about him in his remarks at the Adas Israel synagogue, on May 22:

“…I want to close with the story of one more of the many rabbis who came to Selma 50 years ago. A few days after David Teitelbaum arrived to join the protests, he and a colleague were thrown in jail.

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And they spent a Friday night in custody, singing Adon Olam to the tune of “We Shall Overcome.” And that in and of itself is a profound statement of faith and hope. But what’s wonderful is, is that out of respect many of their fellow protestors began wearing what they called “freedom caps”– yarmulkes — as they marched. th-4

And the day after they were released from prison, Rabbi Teitelbaum watched Dr. King lead a prayer meeting before crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge.”

As we remember the struggles of years past, I hope we can remember the benefits of standing strong together for what is right and just. As we acknowledge the ills of today, I hope we also can stand together, a rainbow of colors and creeds, working to create a better America for all. For me, these aren’t just words—they are my intention.

 

P.S.

Just as I finished writing this, I got this news update from the New York Times:

“Seven years ago, in the gauzy afterglow of a stirring election night in Chicago, commentators dared ask whether the United States had finally begun to heal its divisions over race and atone for the original sin of slavery by electing its first black president. It has not. Not even close.

A new New York Times/CBS News poll reveals that nearly six in 10 Americans, including heavy majorities of both whites and blacks, think race relations are generally bad and that nearly four in 10 think the situation is getting worse. By comparison, two-thirds of Americans surveyed shortly after President Obama took office said they believed that race relations were generally good.”

This survey does not change my intention—it only makes it stronger. The bandaids are off so we can see the poison underneath. Let’s dig deep and make some real change.