These days, in our current tumultuous times, a word which keeps appearing in my thoughts is deflection. I am familiar with this word. It is something I’ve done often. I am provided with feedback. I respond with questions, explanations, or counter responses. One of my previous bosses highlighted this to me. He was on point.
I was not able to correct this behavior overnight. I believe I can safely state two things.
I am better at receiving feedback without deflecting.
I am still working on it.
All Opinions Have Value
During a local community forum on racism, one of the participants stated the following. “If our white brothers and sisters do not become our voice, then real change cannot occur.”
As I have attempted to become a voice on Facebook, one can imagine the range of responses I have received. Mostly it involves a response of All Lives Matter. Sometimes in all caps. Some believe our national media is making more out of racism than what is reality.
There is little doubt, in my opinion, our national media sows discord. Extremes bring ratings. Ratings bring advertising revenue. If I am pressed to gauge the level of racism on a national level in the United States, I doubt I can provide an informed response.
Racism, whether systemic across all regions and professions in our country, or localized to a prosecutorial office in Brunswick, Georgia, is not the point of Black Lives Matter. The point is far simpler. Black Lives Matter. Acknowledge this, and from there, engage in conversations.
The message I have received from black leaders in my community is clear. It is time for me to become a voice. To state black lives matter for the purpose of inviting a discussion.
If we are to have an open discourse with the purpose of bringing about change, it is vitally important we value all opinions. People who respond with all lives matter should be listened to, and engaged.
We give these opinions credibility simply by providing another perspective. This is what discourse is about. This is a large portion of what Black Lives Matter is about. To listen, and to engage.
Where Deflection Failed
When the death of a black man becomes national news, you can begin the countdown to a character assault on the victim. It rarely takes more than a few days. White people will acknowledge the wrongfulness of the death, followed with a disclaimer. “He should not have been killed, but…”
This deflection failed miserably with the killing of Ahmaud Arbery. If you need an example of racism, look no further than this case. Within days, the character assassination of Ahmaud Arbery began in earnest. He brought a gun to school when he was seventeen. He was a suspected burglar. He was trespassing on a home construction site.
Ahmaud Arbery did not deserve to die, but…
The Ahmaud Arbery deflectors have gone silent. Candace Owens, the now famous detractor for Black Lives Matter, who was among the first to minimize Ahmaud’s death, is nowhere to be heard on this case. The silence from his detractors is speaking volumes.
The only thing Ahmaud Arbery did was to jog down the middle of a white neighborhood on a Sunday afternoon. For that, he was chased down, his path blocked, and shot to death. With a racial slur yelled at him as he breathed his last breath.
Why is this important? Why is the death of Ahmaud something to discuss? In my opinion, it speaks loud to the frustrations being voiced by Black Lives Matter. Why did it take two months to bring charges? Why did it take a video going viral to bring charges?
Why did anyone feel the need to assault the character of Ahmaud?
How Do We Become A Voice?
Following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, as riots spread across our country, I posted the following on social media. “It is obvious to me we have forgotten the lessons of Dr. Martin Luther King.”
I can’t help but wonder if my post was a typically “white” answer. If I take a deeper dive into the issues facing us today, I might ask some questions. Are the lessons of Dr. Martin Luther King relevant to what minorities face today? Is the movement which is Black Lives Matter a more appropriate response?
I believe it is clear the white race did not become a voice for African Americans following the Civil Rights movement.
When the Boston Marathon was bombed we as a nation rallied. We provided our undying support. #bostonstrong went viral. We temporarily changed our profile pictures on social media. I do not recall a hashtag, or profile picture, providing a counter response which stated all cities matter.
But all cities do matter. When a shooter brought horror to Vegas, we rallied in support. The same thing for Orlando, and every mass school shooting.
Yet, when it comes to Black Lives Matter, white people have responded with the national deflection of All Lives Matter.
When a black athlete criticizes our president, he is told to shut up and dribble. When a white athlete voices his support of the American Flag, and is criticized for not being sympathetic to the issues gripping our nation, the same person tells us his opinion matters and he should be heard.
From a white person’s perspective, this was nothing more than a black athlete being called out for criticizing our president, and nothing more than a while athlete being supported for voicing his support of our country’s flag.
From the black perspective, it is also simple. The black athlete does not have an opinion of value.
If you agree with my premise that all opinions matter, then should we not listen to our black citizens? Or do we diminish their feelings? If all opinions matter, then why is one athlete told to shut up and dribble, and another athlete is NOT told to shut up and throw the football.
Become a voice for a movement with which you have little to no identity. Participate in the discussion, even if you disagree. Especially if you disagree. When you participate, provide value to all opinions. Listen. Then respond again. It does not have to be any more difficult than this.
If you decide to become a part of the discussion. If you decide to listen, then try to avoid deflecting. Avoid a response which states all lives matter. Or blue lives matter. My brothers and sisters who are black, who are members of my community, who are leaders of their church, know that all lives matter. They have close relatives who are police officers. They know that blue lives matter.
The movement that is Black Lives Matter is not asking you to grab a sign and drive to our capital. You are not being asked to give money. They want nothing more than a discussion about black lives, locally and nationally. They want our help. They want us to be their voice.