Sunday, July 5, 2020

Ain't No Fashion Statement

If you know me at all, you know I'm not afraid to speak my mind. I realized this morning that I'd hadn't made my stance clear on this topic in Second Life

I might be a bit late with this, but it's also a good time to remind everyone that just because the media isn't covering it like they were a month ago doesn't mean the fight is over. 

This is a war that is nearly 500 years in the making. 

I live in Breonna's city. Protests are still happening 24 hours a day. The police have tried to stop the protests without success. My city has been infiltrated by white nationalists posing as protesters. Cops have shot thousands of rounds of pepper bullets and lobbed hundreds of tear gas canisters at protesters. People have died. David McAtee. Tyler Gerth

This movement is not going to stop. 

People ask what white allies can do. I've heard people ask if the Black community even want help from their allies. 

They do. 

I've always considered myself to be fairly enlightened. I was raised by parents, but especially my mom, who had absolutely no tolerance for racism or bigotry. I have always been aware of racial inequities that still exist. I've learned something new in the last couple of months, though.

I've learned that I don't know shit. 

Listening to Black friends and coworkers, hearing their stories and experiences, has taught me that they still, in the year 2020, face racism every single day. It isn't something that happens every so often. The rare day is the day they don't encounter it, not the day they do. 

That is heart-breaking to me. It is unacceptable to me. The status quo has to change. And I believe that it can change. I believe it is different this time. I don't know why - perhaps it is the incontrovertible video of a Black man being murdered, that 8 minutes and 46 seconds of absolute proof that a white cop, with the assistance of other cops, killed a black man. Watching that video is hell. The feel of helplessness, of being absolutely impotent to stop what is happening before our eyes, is life-changing. Something about that video of that murder, that snuff film, that woke something up inside the white community that has been awake in the Black community for 500 years or so. 

If you can see the video of George Floyd being slowly executed and walk away without the unshakable knowledge that his Black life did not matter to that white cop, you've got your head buried in your butt and it's time to pull it out. 

So, yes, I do sincerely believe this time is different. And though the ferver in the media has died down, the momentum has not stopped. We mustn't let it stop. 

We need to stand beside our Black sisters and brothers. We can hold them up when they are tired, and when they need to rest we can stand up for them. 

And that is absolutely the very least we can do, because there is so much more. One of the most important things we can do is to acknowledge that though it is a problem for Black people, it was not caused by Black people. White people are responsible for this so it should be our damn job to fix it. 

We can not only listen to Black voices, but actually hear them. So often white allies find themselves acting first, then learning that what we've said or done is harmful rather than helpful without meaning to. 

I'm not able to physically join the protesters. In this heat, my fat white ass would end up in a sweaty, pale passed-out heap on the ground and that helps no one. I've found other ways to help. I asked, and I learned. 

These are not the only things we can do - this is simply what I'm doing, and I hope it gives you some ideas of what you can do as well.

Firstly, I'm giving cash. I work for a nonprofit in fundraising and I understand the importance of having that funding. This is something that I can easily do, and it doesn't have to be a lot - trust me, I'm not giving hundreds. $5, $10, $20 can make a world of difference when a thousand people give that amount, so please never think you don't have the money to donate. Think about what you spend in Second Life - can you go without buying the fatpack, or the 10th new mesh head in order to throw a couple bucks at an organization in your city supporting this fight? Of course you can. Seriously, if you've got $5, you can make a real difference. Fundraising is my life, and while the big fat donations of thousands of dollars are great, our bread and butter are the people just like us - the people who give $5 or $10 every once in a while. Those are the donations we depend on. 

Secondly, since I can't be at the protests I monitor police radio traffic instead. I have a nice little app on my phone and if I hear the police planning to disrupt a protest, I contact someone on the ground who relays the message to the protest leaders so they can move the march in another direction, or at least know what is coming at them. Forewarned is forearmed. 

Thirdly, I've joined our diversity committee at work. I don't have much to say about that because I'm not educated enough in the activities to speak on it yet. 

Fourth, I'm using my voice. Loudly. No one is exempt from my voice - not family, not friends, not coworkers, and that extends into SL as well. If you ever visit the official Second Life forums, you've probably gotten sick of me speaking so loudly. There is a BLM flag flying above my house on the mainland. I'm happy to debate or argue with anyone who comes along and tries to shout, "All lives matter!" in my face. I'm tenacious and when I dig my stilettos in on a topic that I am absolutely waveringly certain on, I don't stop until I can make the other person see things differently, hopefully, or they run away screaming. 

I've succeeded in both. I've had people tell me that arguing solves nothing and sways no one. They're wrong. When you tackle an issue with another person, there is often a moment when you finally spit something out that clicks. 

And those who run away screaming? Those are the ones who were never going to change their minds. They are the ones who cling to their own unwavering faith that all lives matter (of course they do), and the confederate flag is about heritage, and Donald Trump is the messiah. 

If you're unable to comprehend why we do not say "all lives matter" and are unwilling to learn, and you run from the discussion, and think I'm a big ol' meany, well... honestly, tough shit. You're going to be left behind. Hell, Mississippi is changing their state flag - if that can happen, anything is possible.

The other way I'm using my voice is by letting my police department, my mayor, my governor, my city council members, my state representatives, and the local and state police unions know my feelings quite bluntly, and often, and in a variety of ways. Twitter, FB, email, text, phone calls, letters... any way I can find to reach out to them and let them know that I demand change. That I pay their salaries with my taxes. That they answer to the public, and I am Jane Q. Public. In some cases, I'm using my real name. In some cases, such as with the police unions, I'm using an alias. I've no doubt that "Beth Macbain" has been run through NCIC more than once recently. The police don't like me very much right now. 

IDGAF. I don't like them every much, either.  

The final thing I do, and possibly the most important thing I do, is VOTE. In every single election no matter how big or how small. Vote! Vote, vote, vote, vote, vote!

It is not just your right - it is your duty. 

I don't care of the only thing on the ballot is the race for city dog catcher (and that's actually an incredibly important position), I will cast my ballot come hell, high water, or a pandemic. 

Nothing will stop me, and there is nothing that should stop anyone from voting, no excuses. Your employer is legally bound to give you time off to vote (Election Day should be a national holiday, damn it) and if you don't have a car, Uber and Lyft give free rides on Election Day. 

I think back on the last two elections my father was able to vote in before he died. For the next-to-last one, he had a broken hip and had just had surgery. Getting him to the polling place is a long story, and it wasn't easy, and it was horrifically painful for him, but there was no way in hell he wasn't going to vote. If I hadn't taken him, he would have tried to walk with that broken hip. His last election, it just wasn't possible to take him. He did an absentee ballot and took immense pleasure in voting for a woman over Trump. He was upset when Trump won, but by God, he'd done his part. 

If he can do that, you can do that, too. You simply must vote. Please. If I need to beg you to, I will. If I have to call a taxi and pay for it for you, I will. If I need to call your boss and explain their legal obligations, I will.

Just, please, vote. 

It's life or death for many, and that is not hyperbole. Who we put in office affects the lives of every single one of us, and in today's climate, it is more important than ever to get your ass to the polls. We have got to have police reform, and that is going to start on the local level, not the national level. We have to end qualified immunity for cops. We have to take the power away from the thugs that hold leadership positions in the police unions. We have to stop them from shielding bad cops, and from putting targets on the backs of good cops who blow the whistle. 

This starts with who is in office. 

Remember, remember, the first Tuesday of November...

It's a big one this year. Trump simply has to go. And in Kentucky, we are desperately trying to help our nation by finally getting rid of Mitch McConnell. 

Vote as if lives depend on it - because they do. Black lives, and yes, white lives, too. 

But seriously, y'all... Black people are targeted every single day of their lives. Of course all lives matter, but to a great many (white) people, a lot of them holding a badge, Black lives do not matter. They've shown us this thousands of times in thousands of ways. We have got to send the message that this will not be tolerated. We have to unify, and we have to vote, and we have to drive those racists who persist in being awful humans into the light for all to see, and we have to show them that their kind are not going to win this war. And we have to do this because...

Black Lives Matter.




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