Guest Column by Chris Lahr
“Black Lives Matter! Black Lives Matter! Black Lives Matter!” It was day two of the protests in Ft. Wayne, Indiana as a crowd of mostly white folks shouted that Black Lives Mattered in the faces of some heavily armed policeman. It was the same policeman that had gassed the crowd the night before and would gas the crowd again in just a couple short hours.
Amidst the crowd a young black man stood up on a rock and as he towered above the protestors he started shouting, “F%@# you! F%@# you! F%@# you! Why do Black Lives Matter now? Did Black Lives Matter to you last month or the month before?” Before some black protestors could coax him to stop, I turned to my 13-year-old daughter and told her to listen, because his voice was important. As the man walked from the crowd I approached him, thanked him for his courageous and important voice and that his plea did not fall on deaf ears.
I’ve been to protests before and this one seems a bit different to me. Moving to Ft. Wayne from Philadelphia (where we lived for 20 years) has been an adjustment for us as a family. One example my kids experienced almost on a daily basis was hearing white peers use the n– word. My kids were shocked to hear numerous racists remarks and they spent a great deal of time calling out and redirecting their new found friends. My wife and I approached some school officials about it and asked if some racial sensitivity training could be added into the curriculum and it seemed to fall on deaf ears as they said this sort of training must come from the home. But this apparently is the problem, as people are not born racist, it is a taught skill. Yet, here we are, downtown Ft. Wayne, filled with white folks shouting “Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter.”
The man’s voice standing on the rock yelling, “Why do Black Lives Matter now?”continues to ring in my head day after day as the protests continue. How did things change so abruptly, and why are people so passionate, what really matters? As I ponder the man’s voice I think there is a great awakening happening. Sure there are folks who have other agendas, such as anarchy, there are some who are tired of the current political scene, and some have just been cooped up too long in quarantine. Ultimately as white folks we need to ask ourselves, “What evidence is there in your life that Black Lives Matter?” Protesting, reading books and having open and honest conversations is an important start, but that’s all it is… a start. It’s not enough to simple shout “Black Lives Matter” if there is no evidence in your life that they really do. White people often ask what they can DO about racism. We need to not see racial justice as something you do as much as it is something you join. Racial equality is about a lifestyle, a life-long journey that bears the fruit of “Black Lives Mattering.”