Tuesday, July 12, 2016

"It's Not Your Funeral: Don't Make BLM About You"
By Matt Jungblut, Member of BATs

Regarding the recent deaths of black men by some bad police (this piece is not anti-police, there are many more good police doing a a really hard job with a lot of stress, for very little money - if you want to debate that, start another post elsewhere, please), there are many whites who have some confusion and questions as to what to say and do.
Black Lives Matter is not an anti-police or anti-white group or organization. There may be some folks who are using it that way, much in the same way that there are some Christians who hate, Muslims that bomb, Jews who cheat, and so on, but you'd be wrong to think that those bad people represent the entire group.
If you're still with me and not frothing with outrage right now, good, you're probably the target audience, a rational person who isn't instantly offended.
I am trying to support my black friends best right now by being there if they need me or ask me to be. I am also reading everything that they are writing and posting about, I am doing my best to listen.
That's right, listening, reading, and self educating. I consider America's black community to be in mourning right now. There is a lot of pain and people are expressing it as best as they can, and trying to make sense as to why this is still happening in our country. If you are unsure how to act, perhaps you should treat this situation like a funeral.
Some things I'm not doing: I'm not going on their pages and saying all lives matter. I'm not saying I completely understand how you feel. I'm not saying that we can solve this with love. I'm not saying my prayers are with you. I'm not saying white people get killed by police too. I'm not saying I don't see color. I'm not "white-splaining" the situation. It's not about me. I wouldn't go to a funeral and get up and start preaching or making a eulogy unless I was family or invited to do so.
I'm also not asking black folks to help me understand. It's 2016, these conversations should have happened already. It's not up to black folks to educate me. There's plenty books and articles out there, where black people are expressing what they think. And if you read them, you'll see that there are a thousand different viewpoints being expressed by the black community. There is no single black viewpoint; your friend, coworker, child's teacher, student, neighbor, or the person standing next to you in the elevator does not speak for the entire black community. Neither do President Obama, Al Sharpton, Beyonce, Allen West, Ben Carson, Carmelo Anthony, or Serena Williams. They only speak for themselves and from their experiences. I don't speak for you; nor does Donald Trump, Hilary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Mike Trout, or Steven Colbert speak for all white people. Do not expect black folks to explain things to you right now. And don't ask them for help understanding, no matter how well intentioned you are, it's not right. At a disease victim's funeral, would you ask the grieving family how you can avoid catching the same disease? Or what the symptoms were? Would you ask them to bring you to the hospital for a check up? No. It's not the time or place. Go educate yourself. If you are truly friends with them, they'll let you know when they want to talk about it.
I'm not telling them that I've got their back. It doesn't help them, although it might make me feel good about myself. My friends already know that I have their back and understand who I am; and random black folks or acquaintances don't need me to walk up to them and start an uncomfortable conversation. If you're at a restaurant and you see a family sharing a meal after a funeral, do you walk up to these strangers and tell them that you're here for them and then walk out? Or worse, wait for them to congratulate you?
Now if you really want to do something, what can you do? First educate yourself. Go read a book. Or read a varied amount of viewpoints. Seriously.
Also let go of the "all lives matter" bit. Of course they do, don't be an idiot. When someone says Merry Christmas, I don't respond "All holidays matter.", and if I hear someone say "God bless America.", I don't respond "And Canada, and Japan, and so on...." It's about context. If you call 911 for an ambulance, and the responder didn't want your location because "all lives matter", you'd think they were insane. Well, do you really want to sound that way? It's black people that are hurting most right now, not you.
If you plan to go to a protest or a rally, do it, but understand what you are getting yourself into. Do not make it about you and don't make it worse for anyone else. If people are protesting peacefully, don't antagonize the police or opposing protestors. If it is getting ugly, weigh your options, people are getting hurt and arrested, don't use your white privilege to avoid consequences that you helped create. If you don't feel that you could commit to rally, or cannot join for any other reason, you should not feel bad; but don't judge those who are. And do not make assumptions about the motives of the people who are protesting, especially if you were not there - even if you saw it on the news - in fact, especially if you saw it on the news.
Briefly about white privilege, if you're white, you have it and benefit from it. You might not realize it, you might not like it, and you might be the nicest person on the planet, you didn't create it, but it exists nevertheless, even if you're poor, sick, or having a really bad day. Read up on it, if it makes you angry, confused, and surprised, good, because it should.
You want to make America great? Accept that there are a lot more American experiences than you realize and start learning a bit more about them. This summer's required reading should include:
Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority, by Tom Burrell
“Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”, by Beverly Daniel Tatum
The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander
White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son, by Tim Wise
How The Irish Became White, by Noel Ignatiev
Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
Feel free to disagree with me about this, or agree, or add to this, but please be respectful towards others who post here. If you are angry enough to defriend me over this, it says a lot more about you than me. I am far from perfect, and I'm not claiming to be better than anyone else or even enlightened somehow. However, I have been traveling overseas and living in countries where I was a minority for a good chunk of my life. I am raising a child who is not being accepted by one of her nations (and will have her own difficulties with her other nation). I worked with and learned a lot from blacks and other minorities for most of my life. I've been privileged to teach kids from a host of backgrounds. And most of all, I've done my best to grow and learn, often with a great bit of pain. I've been tolerated by black people, embraced by black people, hated by black people... but that's been my experience with most people. We all have to do better.

Matt Jungblut has taught in Japan, Hawaii, Bronx, and Brooklyn. He retired when test results became more important than children. He is currently a freelance writer, DJ, and full time daddy.


  1. This was originally just a Facebook rant that gathered more attention than I expected. I appreciate the many people that say that this has helped them in some way.

  2. Wonderfully complete and balanced. Thank you for sharing.


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