Portland Oregon is one of the most beautiful parts of our country. The first word that always comes up for me when I think of this place is green! Not just the color of the landscape, which it is, but the mindset and culture of this area is Green Preservation at it’s finest. I looked up the term Going Green to make sure that’s what I wanted to convey. “Going green” means to pursue knowledge and practices that can lead to more environmentally friendly and ecologically responsible decisions and lifestyles, which can help protect the environment and sustain its natural resources for current and future generations.” As I write this piece I see the relatedness between this beautiful place that must be preserved, as it is, and the black lives that are not (being preserved).
The week we were in Portland was the same week Alton Sterling and Philando Castille were murdered by policemen. So our walks in Mount Tabor Park and on the trails of Multnomah Falls were peppered with talks of disbelief, anger and grief for the black men being targeted by our society in general. As Mark and I processed the most recent events we came to some surprising thoughts about the Black Lives Matter mission.
Caveat: 1) I passionately believe in the mobilization of a people and the critical issues of justice, safety and humanity in which the Black Lives Matter movement embodies. I understand the necessity to protest injustice, to stand up in the name of fairness and humanity. I am proud of the young people, the women and the activist who are taking this relentless stand, for not only black people but any group who are targets for police brutality and profiling. 2) Concurrently, I do not agree with the random killing of police officers. I do not believe the fate of Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa of Dallas, or Montrell Jackson, Matthew Gerald and Brad Garafola of Baton Rouge was a karmic end. Unlike profiling, prejudice and biases, karma is not general but precisely designated for those who deserve it. I believe that the universe makes no mistakes and has no biases. 3) Although the Black Lives Matter movement is linked to the killing of police officers, I do not believe there is a connection between the two.
While we walked the trails around the reservoirs of Mt. Tabor Park I posed the question, “Do black lives matter to black lives?” I was able to have the insight to ask this question because I lived in Oakland, CA for 15 years. I’ve been a witness to the daily black on black violence that is also a crisis in our country. Yet, no outrage, no protest, no battle cries in the streets that ‘black lives matter’, no organized efforts to hold our own accountable. Is it easier to play the race card then it is to open the wounds of the past in order to heal the consciousness that makes us devalue ourselves? It’s understandable that the media doesn’t cover the murders of African American men by the hands of our own. This consciousness and rationale is buried in the plan written on the pages of the Willie Lynch pages, in short, he says, “….we won’t have to kill or even insist they come in the back door; they will insist on it and they will destroy themselves.” So, society says in conscious, unconscious and insidious ways, “Let them.” My question to my people, to the Black Lives Matter activist, to myself, “Why have we made this reality in our community ‘okay’ by being jaded, passive or unmoved by the news that another black man has been gun down in our streets at the hands of his own? But when others kill us it’s not okay?” Sort of like the argument: It’s okay for my bruthas and sistahs to call me niggah but a white person better not use that same term.
During many quiet reflective moments on this walk I asked myself the question, as I always do, what solutions can I replace with my complaints. For now, I am came up with the following: I will continue to risk posing this question to others in my cultural community and challenging my brothers and sisters to broaden their charge and use the power and momentum of the movement in the following ways:
- To start changing our condition and perceptions in society by addressing the breakdown in families and communities.
- To start the healing of our victim consciousness within ourselves and our communities as we fight for fair treatment from others.
- Be courageous enough to ask ourselves, who are we talking to when we yell with such passion and determination, “Black Lives Matter?”
We cannot demand that others move to preserve the lives of black folks if we aren’t willing to do it for ourselves. What we MUST be willing to do for ourselves, in our own communities, on our own accord is, “…pursue knowledge and practices that can lead to more environmentally friendly and socially responsible decisions and lifestyles, which can help protect our communities and sustain its powerfully innate resources for current and future generations.” As it is so apparent, when it comes down to it, black, white or green we all have this goal in common.