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9 WEEKS TO GO … Black Lives Matter

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”

—Frederick Douglass

“If you make peaceful evolution impossible – you make violent revolution inevitable.”

—JFK

“Of course black lives matter, do we think our little white asses are the only ones that matter? No! All these good Christian people that are supposed to be such good Christian people, the last thing we’re supposed to do is to judge one another.”

—Dolly Parton

Hello from Tennessee and welcome back to the Wednesday countdown to Election Day.

Over these last few rants, anytime I mention the president’s hateful rhetoric or anything about the Black Lives Matter protests, I get some kind of comment that distills every idea I’m trying to discuss into two words: “LOOK … LOOTING!”

If we have met before out on the road or if you know me at all through my lyrics/blogs or any of my goofy social media posts, I would hope you know I don’t condone violence or destruction. I also think “abolish the police” is a terrible slogan. Many polls suggest people of color would prefer more police on the street, just (get this…) not police that murder them. We can’t have a just and working society without a system of law and order, nor can we have any kind of society if riots are the norm.

But they are not the norm. They are a response, an anomaly, and the symptom—not the disease. They are an indication we have broken the social contract. I believe most protestors are peaceful and most cops have good intentions. But because of the amount of power cops are granted, when there are police officers with no conscience in their ranks, it takes all of us to stand up for change. Unequivocally.

Those of us in support of Black Lives Matter aren’t saying other lives are less. We are saying stop making some peoples’ lives value-less. Peaceful protestors are not thugs or fascists, and for the majority of the marches, violence was isolated and small compared to the millions of peaceful voices marching together. If all lives matter, then why wouldn’t you fight for justice for those being murdered?

How many of us yelling ALL LIVES MATTER or THEY AREN’T PROTESTS, THEY ARE RIOTS! actually went to the protests when they were in hundreds of cities, tens of millions strong? How many of us actually watched the footage of the cop’s knee on the neck of George Floyd? Or Philando Castile shot point-blank in his own car? Or looked into the case of Breonna Taylor? The names are hundreds deep and are heart-breaking. But we have to attempt to look at the facts without the defensiveness and rhetoric all around us.

I am reading your comments, and I am listening to your rebuttals. But if you have not taken the time to TRULY see the kind of violence that started these protests, it’s hard to hear you deny this movement.

How did we get to the point where we could watch black men and women get murdered in broad daylight (one out of three black people killed by police are unarmed), the cops get off, and all we can concentrate on is eating up the president’s manufactured fear that someone is coming for you in the suburbs?

Many of us are uncomfortable right now, and I believe that’s because we have gone too long without change: too long benefiting from a system we didn’t even understand existed. If we are uncomfortable, it’s because nothing good comes for free, and the time is long past due for structural reform.  

People who look like me have to stand up: because I don’t get in as much trouble when I make a mistake. No one pulls me over and searches me. When white guys go into federal buildings with AK-47s to protest having to wear masks, they are escorted out peacefully, not shot in the back. Kyle Rittenhouse just had a church crowdfund over $265K for his legal defense. Watch the footage of him openly firing on a crowd and then walking through police lines with his arms up and tell me, what is the defense here?

I’m trying to remember that part of the Bible too where Jesus says wannabe vigilantes with AK-47s get you closer to God. Why aren’t more churches standing up for Black Lives Matter? From my understanding, Jesus was brown, an immigrant, and protested injustice at every turn.

Yes, burning down buildings is terrible. Rioting and looting are terrible. But to me, what is much worse is white supremacists feeling they have free reign as the president retweets “White power” and “When the looting starts the shooting starts,” a dog whistle back to the racists from the civil rights era. I can’t imagine how hard it is to be a police officer, especially while the president is dog whistling every racist, agitator, and white nationalist group to inflame violence at the protests.

Here are a few words on race from the Republican nominee back on the ballot November 3:

“You also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.”—Responding to a Nazi rally in Charlottesville where Heather Heyer was murdered.

Haitians “all have AIDS” and Nigerians would never “go back to their huts” once they came to the United States.

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

“Happy #Cinco De Mayo- The best Taco Bowls are made in Trump tower Grill. I love Mexicans!”

This list goes on and on.

I believe this country can survive a few more weeks of this president, but it will only be because there are cops that don’t pull the trigger as the protests and riots grow more tense and people of color who don’t completely revolt. We whites in their situation would have already lost our damn minds. In many ways, it’s amazing things haven’t been even rougher than they are. All of us should have been in the streets when the leader of the free world couldn’t find enough moral center to denounce Nazis killing a woman in Charlottesville. It took the dark and claustrophobic curtain of COVID, three-and-half years of Trump’s hate, and the footage of George Floyd to set off a powder keg that I believe, in the end, can still move us forward as a society, but I believe we must have new leadership on November 3 to start a long process of healing this divide.

It’s time to ask ourselves if we want to be on the right side of history here, folks. If we want our children and grandchildren to discover we tried to prevent the country from moving away from hate. 

I have hope, real hope, that every time in our country’s history that it looked like we were taking a step back, we finally moved forward. This is what America is. The arc of justice is supposed to bend toward the light, and when something is wrong, we are supposed to stand together and fix it.

The blessing of Trump is he has made it impossible for many of us to keep saying “racism doesn’t exist.” We have a chance to help build a new consensus on race and equality. And in the interest of holding this fragile republic together—even if you never vote Democrat again—please make your voices heard and vote for change on November 3.

I would like to finish with the August 25 transcript of Julia Jackson (Jacob Blake’s mother) as she spoke after her son was shot seven times in the back. She offers a prayer for everyone INCLUDING THE POLICE FAMILIES. She denounces the riots. She gives us a vision of moral leadership far past anything we are hearing from our own administration:

“My son has been fighting for his life. And we really just need prayers.

“As I was riding through here, through this city, I noticed a lot of damage that doesn’t reflect my son or my family. If Jacob knew what was going on as far as that goes, the violence and the destruction, he would be very unpleased. So I’m really asking and encouraging everyone in Wisconsin and abroad to take a moment and examine your hearts.

“Citizens, police officers, firemen, clergy, politicians: Do Jacob justice on this level and examine your hearts. We need healing.

“As I pray for my son’s healing physically, emotionally, and spiritually, I also have been praying, even before this, for the healing of our country.

“God has placed each and every one of us in this country because he wanted us to be here. Clearly, you can see by now that I have beautiful, brown skin. But take a look at your hand. And whatever shade it is, it is beautiful as well.

“How dare we hate what we are. We are humans. God did not make one type of tree. Or flower. Or fish or horse. Or grass. Or rock. How dare you ask him to make one type of human that looks just like you. I’m not talking to just Caucasian people. I am talking to everyone, white, black, Japanese, Chinese, red, brown. No one is superior to the other. The only supreme being is God himself.

“Please, let’s begin to pray for healing for our nation. We are the United States. Have we been united? Do you understand what’s going to happen when we fall because a house that is against each other cannot stand?

“To all those police officers, I’m praying for you and your families. To all of the citizens, my Black and brown sisters and brothers, I’m praying for you. I believe that you are an intelligent being just like the rest of us.

“Let’s use our hearts, our love, and our intelligence to work together to show the rest of the world how humans are supposed to treat each other. America is great when we behave greatly.”

If she can find strength like this to uplift and fight for change during her darkest hours, I believe we can find some sitting here in our own homes reading this blog post. Thanks for checking in. See you next Wednesday.

—Gooding

Gooding writes a new post most Wednesdays. Please like and subscribe on all social media sites with @goodingmusic. You can also subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed athttp://goodingmusic.com/blog/feed/.

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