• Jessica Vantiegham

Black Lives Matter and all the 'Ish

Updated: Jun 10, 2020

I want to preface this small little blog with a plea to you who were curious and kind enough to open the link. A plea that you will read this with an open mind and kind heart. Try to step outside of the shoes and life that only you have known and read this with a new set of eyes.

Honestly, I have debated writing this for nearly three weeks, stopping myself each and every time with the internal dialogue of “your opinion doesn’t matter,” “just make sure you can do your own part in your daily life,” and “you don’t want to upset friends, family and clients.” Then I stumbled onto a quote the other day that made me feel utterly ashamed for not speaking up where I could in recent interactions:

“The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.

As a white woman in the south I have heard it all these last few weeks from acquaintances, friends and family. I will never understand the weird assumption that, because we are white, have a southern drawl and live in the south, we all hold the same values and belief systems. But…apparently that assumption is still in play because people have been vomiting up their opinions left and right without ever considering that others may not agree with them or that their views may be downright offensive.

I won’t force my opinions onto you. It most likely will have no bearing on your own values. Only you can determine what you hold true. But some of the comments I have heard in the last few weeks are simply cringe worthy to the vast majority. Yes, there will always be differing faiths and opinions throughout life but we should be able to articulate our own values without devaluing others.

“All lives matter.”

Uhm…yes. Of course. We are all fully aware that ALL lives matter. That is not the point in this moment in history. The point of this is that Black Americans have gotten the proverbial short end of the stick since the day this country was founded on their literal backs.

Black Lives Matter is simply a way to state that we recognize that our country continues to perpetuate their inferiority at great costs to their community and lives. The B.L.M. movement is not that other lives, White, Mexican, Asian, are less important. Of course, all lives matter. That is not the point and it just sounds ridiculous.

“Floyd wasn’t a good person. He was a criminal.”

I understand that “bad” people who break the law and endanger others will always come in all shapes, colors and cultures. I understand this on a deeply personal level. At the age of 20, my sister and I had to identify my 18 year old baby brother’s body due to a police altercation that left him in the county morgue with a bullet lodged smack dab in the middle of his forehead. There are consequences to people’s actions. My brother was truly an immediate threat to an officer with no other option but drastic police force. George Floyd was not an immediate threat. He was held down long after any perceived "threat" was neutralized. He was not armed. The police officer with a knee to his neck was surrounded by other officers that were equally equipped to handle him. He was no threat yet, he paid with his life by a man who had no authority to take it. His life was simply not valuable. And that is the point.

On a side note…I have been amazed at some of the most scathing comments about how bad of a person he was from the most loudly self-professed Christians. Was Christ not about forgiveness and redemption? Because Floyd broke laws and was not a “good person,” does that somehow make this acceptable? It is an asinine comment to hear someone say and strikes others as a sad attempt to justify one man taking another man’s life.

“Protests, violence and riots are not the way to affect change.”

One opinion I have heard consistently across the board is that looting is wrong. Agreed. A thousand times over. Taking advantage and stealing goods while ruining folk’s ability to provide for their family and their employees is legally and morally criminal. It should not be tolerated.

However, when people discuss the unnecessary violence, I’m left with the one thought…“what revolution or shift of societal change do you know that was successful without it?” Do I condone violence? Don’t be silly…of course not. The same way I do not condone wars. But I’m left wondering just how effective is a peaceful revolution. Did it help in the 60’s to stop Vietnam? No…it waged on to it's ultimate defeat. Did it help Colin Kaepernick when he acted out the most peaceful form of protest by kneeling on a field? No, he was fired and blackballed from the NFL. Even during the peaceful protests happening right now there is violent backlash from law enforcement.

How do you change systemic and ingrained racial inequality by blogging, posting Instagram quotes and sticking decals on your car? Yes, this is a blog. The irony is not lost on me.

Discussions Doing Good

The media loves to sensationalize the bad. It sells. We all know this. It can be hard to lose sight of the truly inspiring individuals and communities that are rallying around their neighbors to lift them up and show support.

One took place in our literal backyard when a man did not feel safe enough to walk in the neighborhood he grew up in and was surrounded by neighbors that simply took a walk but, more importantly, a stance with him.

On a larger scale, the phenomenal peaceful protest in Downtown Nashville of 10,000 plus individuals led by six local teens that bonded over Twitter.

These two instances show the power of communication and the role it plays in our lives and communities. Communication is how we articulate our values that will ultimately influence our actions and sometimes...those of others. We all have the power to perpetuate the agenda of inequality or create a shift for the good in those around us and our communities.

It is an irritatingly cliché statement, but it is also the absolute bottom line to all of this: There is only one race…the human race.

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