Say Something: Thoughts on the Black Lives Matter Movement

Thoughts on the Black Lives Matter Movement featured by popular lifestyle blogger, Design Mom

Nina_Simone_Quote - Thoughts on the Black Lives Matter Movement featured by popular lifestyle blogger, Design Mom

By Gabrielle. 

Late last night, I logged onto Facebook and my feed was filled — completely overflowing — with posts about Alton Sterling. I hadn’t heard the news and sat in shock as I read post after post after post. And then, I woke up this morning to gut-wrenching news about Philando Castile. It’s all I can think about. I can’t stay silent. So I’m writing.

The first part of this post is for any white readers who might think the Black Lives Matter movement is unnecessary at best and harmful at worst. It’s for white readers whose first instinct is to defend the police officers. It’s for white readers who can list all the reasons why Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were in the wrong, and what they should have done differently to prevent being killed.

First, understand that your thinking is wrong.

Your list about how they could have prevented their own murders? Lose it. It’s a racist, dishonest list. There is nothing they could have done. They were killed because they were living life with black skin. They were killed because they were born black. Under the exact same circumstances as Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, white men would still be alive. It’s that simple. Both of these men are dead because of the color of their skin. Period.

As far as defending the police officers in these instances, don’t. There are wonderful police officers who do a great job in a hard line of work every single day. I know this. You know this. Everybody knows this. And there are corrupt and racist and cruel police officers too. The corrupt ones need to be called out and held accountable. If you are a fan of police officers, you are not doing them any favors if you accept corruption among them. Call it out and encourage them to call it out too. It’s better for them, it’s better for all of us. (For a passionate argument along these lines, see this video of a DJ calling out a police officer to speak up.)

Remember, police officers are not supposed to be the judge and jury and executioner. That is not their job. And yet, here are the stats on people killed by police in 2016.

neutral_supports_oppressors - Thoughts on the Black Lives Matter Movement featured by popular lifestyle blogger, Design Mom

The second part of this post is for white readers who feel compelled to do or say something about this unnecessary and systematic violence.

What should you do? I confess, I’m not sure. I don’t know what’s effective and what’s a waste of time. I haven’t found anything that tells me how to make real change. So perhaps we can start by listening. Black women everywhere made videos yesterday sharing their thoughts — I think I had at least 15 in my Facebook feed. Here are three that happen to be mothers (and women I know personally and care deeply about): Amber Dorsey, Brandi RileyA’Driane Nieves. Watch them. Listen. Try to imagine the terror of being pulled over for a routine traffic violation when you are black. Try to imagine the terror of knowing your children could be killed for going about their daily lives, just because they dare to have black skin.

After you listen, take a minute to realize that if it hasn’t hit home for you already, that it will at some point. Think of the black kids at your school. Think of your black neighbors. Think of your cousin who just adopted two black boys from Haiti. I know it’s tempting to believe nothing will happen to them. Your neighborhood is safe. You’re pretty sure your community isn’t racist. Your kids don’t even seem to notice race.

But that’s not how this works. Having black skin and living in a safe neighborhood won’t prevent this. Having black skin and white friends won’t prevent this. Having black skin and white parents won’t prevent this. Having black skin and respect for authority won’t prevent this. Having black skin and wearing certain clothes won’t prevent this. Since white people are the oppressors here, only white people can prevent this.

Which brings us to this: The senseless killing needs to end. It’s time to say something. If you use social media, I encourage (ask, beg, implore) you to share a tweet or a Facebook post, or share a quote and a hashtag on Instagram. Put a Black Lives Matter movement poster in your yard or your window. Take the time to help your kids understand that life is different for black kids and that not having to think or talk about race is a privilege, and only something white people get to do. Call out the injustice and racism when you see it — even when it’s your uncle or friend from church. And check out the Black Lives Matter movement Get Involved page to find more ideas. Join me as I continue to learn how to be an ally.

Have other ideas on what you can say or do? Or thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement? I hope you’ll share them in the comments. Feeling heartbroken and helpless? Oh man. I hear you. You can share that too.

P.S. — Kelly Wickham Hurst taught me that every time I write something about race I will likely get called out as a racist and told I’m doing it wrong, and that’s okay, it’s worth saying something anyway. You may experience the same thing, but you will survive.

122 thoughts on “Say Something: Thoughts on the Black Lives Matter Movement”

  1. Thank you for this honest and true post. This reminds me why I read your blog and share it with others, Gabby.
    In our family, we talk with our young children about these injustices. As a white family, growing up in a predominantly white Ohio suburb, the violence against black people would appear to be on our periphery. Just a short distance from our home to downtown Cleveland, the rate of gun violence is soaring and police brutality seems to have become commonplace. Owning it, acknowledging it, and having the conversation is how we feel we can make an impact at present; teaching our children that you don’t have to be part of the problem in order to be part of the solution.

  2. Thank you for being willing to take on tough issues, Gabrielle. I come to your blog for your honesty, insights and courage. Keep it up.

  3. Gabby, I think you’re doing it right.

    It’s uncomfortable and upsetting to confront your own bias, but it’s necessary work we all must do to create the just and peaceful world we all long for.

  4. Gabby, thank you so much for this post. I’m grateful you didn’t mince words. I’m so grateful you didn’t feel the need to make this horror palatable to people who don’t have to live it every day. Your voice carries so far, and many people who need to hear it, will hear you. Thank you.

  5. I saw a really interesting analogy this morning, regarding why the use of the “alllivesmatter” hastag is missing the point, and I thought it provided a lot of clarity (hopefully?) to an argument that a lot of people struggle to understand (why changing the hastag from BLACKlivesmatter to ALLlivesmatter is offensive, or hurtful). The analogy was essentially that you should imagine that you’ve broken your arm, and you go to a doctor for help. And your doctor looks at you and says “Well, ALL bones matter; they’re equally important, so we shouldn’t focus our energy on just ONE.” Yes, OF COURSE, all bones matter – we don’t want any of them to break, or fracture. But right now, that bone in your arm is broken, and it DOES need help – it needs the attention, and the care, that your other bones don’t need right now. You want (NEED) that doctor to focus his attention and resources on the broken part.

    So, absolutely, no one is seeking to say that lives other than black lives don’t matter. But for those of us who get pulled over and have the privilege of being frustrated, or annoyed, or pissed off, and not TERRIFIED that our lives are in danger… we need to focus our efforts and attention on those people who do NOT have that privilege. We need to fix the broken bone; the unbroken bones will get along just fine while we work on the one that needs our help right now.

    (I hope that came across clearly; that analogy was really helpful to me, and I hope it will be to someone else as well. As a white woman, I have a long way to go in my understanding of my own privilege and inherent bias, but I am trying. I am a continual work in progress.)

    1. By that logic, what do you say about the cops that were gunned down by snipers? Are their bones broken, too? Because they are white, do they not have a valid complaint that warrants a doctor’s care? You mentioned what it’s like for a black person to be pulled over by the cops, but have you ever thought about what it’s like for the cop who knows that any routine traffic stop might end with his death? It’s happening all over the country. There is violence on both sides and the system is definitely broken, but we cannot say that only one side has a valid complaint.
      There have been some HORRIFIC actions by police officers, and I am in NO way defending the police. There needs to be outrage and accountability and substantial change. I’m simply pointing out that the issue is more complex than we sometimes think.

      1. Of course it’s complex. I don’t totally understand your argument.

        No one said anything about the officer’s shootings being acceptable. It was horrific and condemned by everyone in every organization. Stay on point with the gaping wound so we can fix it together.

      2. I suppose one of the key differences is that police officers choose their career and choose whom to pull over. Citizen drivers don’t get to choose when they are pulled over, and they don’t get to choose the color of their skin.

      3. OF course the cops who were gunned down matter. The problem is bringing up white lives every time someone talks about black lives. You won’t let the conversation focus on blacks for even 5 minutes without saying “Cops’ lives matter too” or “white lives matter too” or “All Lives Matter”.

        Speaking as a white man – let’s shut the hell up and let the conversation be about our black brothers and sisters for a while without sticking in two cents about “All Lives”.

      4. I’m sorry you feel this way. See I am a mom of 3 beautiful children living in an ultra conservative part of Colorado. We chose to live here because it’s, clean, safe and our community is well educated. We want/wanted the same thing as all our neighbors. We have worked hard to obtain an education and have a successful career. However, if I, my husband or God forbid my son get pulled over, no one knows us, but the feel threatened by us. How is this? Just by the color of our skin? We drive nice cars, my son does not say his pants, my husband served his country proud for 15 years, I am the daughter of a vet, but guess what? The officer who feels threatened does not care about that and would never know.

        I am scared for my 14 year old to even get his license. Usually, you tell your children not to speed, don’t text and drive, but my conversation with my son goes like this. When you see lights and you are getting pulled over, call us and put the phone down. Put your hands on the steering wheel. Always look the officer in the eye and address them as yes sir or no sir. NEVER take your hands off the wheel without first asking the officer and then tell him exactly what you are going to to. For example, sir you asked for my registration, it’s in the glove box, my I please reach with my right hand to obtain it for you?

        Is this a conversation you have had with your child about the dangers of driving a car? I am sure it’s not. I fear for my son every moment he is not in my or my husbands presence. Would you want to live your life that way?

        There is not disrespect for the officers who were killed, in fact I find it extremely sad that someone would think they were doing the black community a favor by killing police officers, but I ask that you do t discount the systematic racism that still exists today. Something my parents in their 70’s thought they had fought to rid our country of in the 60’s.

  6. This is why I read your blog. Thank you for the post. The Guardian link is amazing data. You encourage all of us to voice our opinion.

  7. Appreciate this so much. Sharing it.
    Want to remember to be vocal during midterm elections and not just in the presidential races. We need to elect officials who are willing to speak out against racial injustice and hold those who violate anyone’s body accountable.

  8. I’m perfectly ok with you not knowing what to say or what to do. But I want to thank you. From the bottom of my heart for even taking the time in this space to ACKNOWLEDGE what is happening. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  9. Thank you, Gabby and Christina for sharing the analogy. I am a African American wife and mother of 2. I was still reeling from the death of Mr. Sterling with I read this and realized that there was another killing that took place. I’m distraught and speechless….

    1. I am now convinced that to be an African-American mother to a son, and to allow that son to leave the safety of your arms and home for even a minute, is an act of courage of the highest order. There is nothing I have ever done that required that amount of courage. I wish you strength and peace.

      As a Canadian I have no meaningful role to play in changing what is happening, but do know there are millions of us up North similarly distraught, speechless and heartbroken.

      1. Linda, you have much you can do. To think Canada is somehow different is naive at best. First Nations people are treated the same way in Canada.

      2. While the issue isn’t as stark in Canada, systemic racism still persists. Against First Nations, as noted by Quinn, and against Muslims and African-Canadians, too.

        Driving While Black is an ‘offense’ I see people stopped for all the time on my way to and from work. At least once weekly. Locally, we’ve also seen burning crosses, loud community opposition to an Africville memorial, and many Confederate flags, just in the past few years.

        Racism is alive and well in Canada, make no mistake.

  10. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Beautifully written and very honest. By writing this piece, in a small way, you have made the world a better place.

  11. I think it’s also very important to start opposing the various policies that have contributed to the police militarization of recent years that has made such events thinkable – e.g., certain aspects of the war on drugs, the discounted distribution of military gear to local police forces, even little things like (as Radley Balko points out) the trend toward making police uniforms look more threatening and militaristic.

    It’s very striking to me (as a non-American): in my home country of Canada, police are generally viewed by most people very positively, as friendly and trustworthy guardians of the peace. But when I’ve interacted with American police officers as I would Canadian ones, to ask directions, say, or just to smile or say hello in passing on the street – they look at me like I have two heads, as do the other people around. It seems that the default attitude between police and the general public in this country is hostile and suspicious.

    1. Do you live in America? As an American who has lived in other places too, we do think of our police officers very positively as kind helpful heroes. The same as you feel about yours in Canada. What we don’t like are those who murder or act as judge and jury like Gabrielle said. Police officers have been very nice and helpful to me in normal situations and scary ones. They are trusted here which is why these murders me us rethink that trust, but also remember it isn’t all police at all who are hateful.

      1. I do, but my experience is mainly limited to NY and DC – now you mention it, perhaps if I’d lived in a midwest small town or something it would be different. On the other hand, what I’m comparing to is Toronto, which is also a huge metropolis.

  12. I felt so helpless late last night and didn’t know what to say to show my love. I ended up tweeting and really meaning, “Black friends, what do you need tonight? My comfort, heartbreak, anger, time, attention, voice, talent: they’re yours. #blacklivesmatter”

    And then I found some ways to help:

    Read “Advice for White Folks in the Wake of the Police Murder of a Black Person.”

    Support Campaign Zero to end police violence.

    Research your city’s police accountability procedures and support transparency. (See more here.)

    Find your State Senator and Assembly Member and ask them to support Mark Leno’s recent push to end the secret discipline records of police officers. (Here’s the link for California.)

    Say something, anything, to acknowledge the pain.

    Give your black friends and coworkers time, space, and love. (Read this post and this post.)

  13. You always seem to speak the truth. I really appreciate your honesty and ability to put in words what I can not. Thank you!

  14. Thank you for speaking up. I posted yesterday because I know I need to use my voice and my influence to stand for what is right.
    I am sharing your post… and every post with this sentiment that I come across.

  15. Thank you for not being a blogger who continues to post fluff while this is happening in our country. Sure, it’s important to escape the horrible, atrocious news but let’s not pretend it doesn’t exist. Thank you for speaking so eloquently on this topic. You said exactly what I couldn’t. Sharing.

  16. Sometimes opening Facebook is like a dagger to the heart. I felt the same way as you yesterday, sadness and frustration with the world, and a loss of what to do about it. But then I remembered that I am a Mother of three white sons. And my most powerful tool to combat this inequality is to raise three men who KNOW that all people are equal and of value, and worth love and kindness, no matter what. It may be a small offering in this world but it is something I can personally do so I’m going to make sure that I am the best example of that I can be. And that most importantly I talk to them about my feelings so they know how important it is to me.

  17. I could not love this more. I woke up reading about yet another killing in my home state and I feel so incredibly helpless. I spent time in inner city Atlanta with a friend last week who works with incredible young men and women who live in the midst of this nightmare and my heart breaks for each and every one of them who may have to confront this tragedy. Thank you for helping find words and direction on what seems to be an impossible situation.

  18. Thanks, as ever, for speaking up when it isn’t the tidiest or most popular thing to do.

    I have been trying to speak up in ways that don’t immediately intimidate or anger the people who have not yet accepted what is happening. It doesn’t always work, I had a vociferous detractor saying that my defense of black people was over-reaching reverse racism. Learning to let those pot-stirrers be and continuing on to the next conversation has been helpful in keeping me from feeling hopeless.

  19. Dana Tkach Gault

    Thank you Gabby, for not being a wimpy blogger who post pretty-ful photos and fluff BS while the world falls apart right before our eyes. I especially appreciate the links to things this white woman and her family can do to stop the insanity. Black lives matter. Black lives matter. Black lives matter.

  20. Thank you! I envy your ability to articulate your thoughts. Thank you so much again for SAYING SOMETHING! #BlackLivesMatter

  21. I don’t know where to begin in thanking you for writing this. So, I’ll start with a simple but heartfelt thank you, and end with sharing a link to words of mine I shared on this subject this morning.

    I’m standing up and using my voice, my words, and white privilege for justice, for peace, for black lives as best I can today, and am committed to using it every day in every way I can. As so many have said for so long before this day: Silence is a luxury. And we simply cannot afford it any longer. We never could.

  22. Wow, this is incredibly moving and inspiring. I don’t have much to add to the discourse, but wanted to at least say I appreciate your words and grace in the face of such a difficult and timely subject.

  23. Dear Gabby, thank you for these words. And maybe even more importantly, thank you for attracting and nurturing a tribe that can respond and take this in with a reflective, positive tone. I braced myself expecting to see negative comments and some be defensive, but so far they are all positive. This speaks highly of you and your character. I have little respect for those that try to speak out on such sensitive topics and then attack and name-call those that disagree. You are classy and brave. Thank you!

  24. Yes indeed I do have something to say about this but I don’t think it’s very unique. The wrong people are being hired using the wrong criteria and the wrong testing methods. If we could change the hiring culture the workplace culture would change with it.

  25. Gabrielle,

    Thank your for this post. I am going to share some links from great articles to raise awareness among white folks…

    One super strong phrase mentioned from one of the posts after the Charleston attack: ““A 5yo black girl survived last night by playing dead. Surely my 6yo white son can survive a conversation about why she matters.”

    But besides the problem with racism (which is ENORMOUS), I would like to point out something else: the American culture of police violence (and murders as consequence) being legitimate… I am not going to enter in the whole discussion (but there are so many effective police around the world who hardly ever uses gun or violence – that it makes us wonder…).

    And it’s not only the institution itself. Is anybody watching almost any kind of TV series about cops? “Chicago PD” is one of the most violent “police series” that I have ever watched, there is at least one or two dead “bad guys” per episode and lots of scenes of police abuse (torture, spanking and off the book methods). And it seems all justified… Once in a while someone will say that this might be going too far, but there are no consequences and the “hero cops who always have difficult pasts or tough presents” seem to serve as a legitimization. They are good people who might have lost it once or twice…

    “Murder in the first degree” has a fair amount of police officers killing “supected or suspicious bad guys”. The cops may feel bad, but it’s always understandable and after a brief suspension they are back… Their anger (and excessive violence) is always justified by the unfairness of the world and the fact that their day by day with all the horrors is so very tough on them.

    The list of series and similar stories can go on and on… But my point is America has integrated this culture of this being OK, even in the weekly TV series. These abusive characters are the heroes of the series. And teenagers, maybe kids, and adults are watching these shows several days a week, several months per year and several years. I thought it was normal, until I lived abroad and I saw Sweden people, French people, German people, Belgium people, Norwegian people mentioning it is insane to have TV shows like this… that these attitudes go unchecked and that it is sold as good, tough cops saving the world. And it truly is….

    So, I humbly think we are dealing with 3 tough issues: racism, corporate violence and the daily media showing police violence as necessary and ok…

    1. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I don’t watch these types of shows, and am really not familiar with them at all, so this wasn’t something I had thought about. You have made an excellent point about our culture and what we think is acceptable.

    2. Sarah, very much agree with what you have said here, Gabrielle you as well, but … and it’s a big but … when you say 3 tough issues …. you leave out the one most important factor in every single horror that we have had to witness in the past few weeks …. It is America’s horrible, unconscionable, ostrich head in the sand attitude about one thing …. GUNS!!!!! My husband and I, our children, our family are all absolute unapologetic supporters of #blacklivesmatter but even our hideous race problem is made hellishly worse because of the unrestricted proliferation of the GUN culture in this country. We drove home today from Orlando where we welcomed our beautiful first grandchild. Perfect little Jameson was born in a hospital across the street from a block long memorial of crosses in tribute to the victims murdered at Pulse nightclub. We drove through that lovely, welcoming city with our hearts soaring with joy for our own family while feeling devastated for all those lost. #Enough is #Enough is #Enough !!!

      1. You are totally right: GUNS! I didn’t even mention it because as it was a State agent, a police officer who has “the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force, also known as the monopoly on violence ” , I didn’t mention it. But you are obviously right! GUNS!
        And I agree with you: Enough is enough is enough!

  26. Thanks for writing this. I really appreciate the voice you bring to the internet and the community you’ve created. This is the one place where I actually look forward to reading the comments :o). Here’s another helpful link I’ve found on things we can do now.

  27. Love you Gabby!!! I’ve been so shaken up about this. With all the threats from terrorism, we should be safe with each other. Can’t stand it. Thanks for speaking up… And eloquently as always! ❤️

  28. Thank you. Yes, you will get called out. I get called out when I write about the election and the racist and xenophobic words and messages routinely being spoken by one of the candidates. But we must speak out. I have a modest blog readership, while you have a very large readership. Your voice matters. Thank you for daring to speak out and to speak truth.

  29. I’m not here to express my opinion on the black lives matter movement. I just felt it was necessary to say that calling the opposing opinion “wrong” and telling the people who have that opinion to just lose their reasons for having it isn’t productive or relevant. Also, it obviously isn’t a simple issue if there are two opposing sides.

    1. I think this is exactly the strength of what Gaby writes – that the opposing opinion is plain wrong. This is an occasion where we need to draw a line, not to acquiesce to trying to understand perspectives – that’s how I’ve read the point of the campaign, and the post – it’s a simple issue, it’s simply wrong.

      1. Eliza, this is in fact an issue where there is clear right and wrong. Just because there are opposing sides does not mean one side isn’t wrong. You can have an “opinion” that 2 + 2 = 5, for example, but your opinion is false.

  30. ow! Those videos… These luminous women.. I am still crying and trembling… and I will keep speaking up…

  31. One more huge thank you. For speaking the truth (even if it’s hard). For speaking the truth (even if people will say it’s not the truth). For speaking the truth (as the kind of person who has never been able to sit idly by in the face of injustice).

    For all these things and more, I adore and admire you. I’m glad to have you among the important voices online using your platform for good.

  32. Thank you for writing this. It is overwhelming watching our fellow Americans die at the hands of cops and trying to figure out what to do and the best way to go about helping. This was inspiring.

  33. marcie ambrose

    ONLY 54 COMMENTS!!!! I’m appalled. There should be thousands of “AMEN’S” in response to what you wrote. As a white woman with white children in a white neighborhood I’m disgusted with what I have seen on the news and internet. I’ve never had to worry about how my 17 year old son would be treated if he got pulled over by a police officer. No mother should. These men who were murdered are someone’s son, father, husband, brother, friend, uncle, neighbor, and co-worker! Their lives are just as important as anyone else’s. A huge shift needs to be made in how we all treat each other. Race is not something to ignore, it’s something to embrace. Thank you for not staying silent. I don’t plan to either.

  34. Thank you for being real and discussing real issues, painful as they are. The level of anger, hate, violence, and general incivility that has become the “norm” in the US is unacceptable. We all must address this for meaningful change to occur.

  35. Thank you. Such a complicated issue, such a simple straight forward issue. Im a white mother raising a black daughter. Im hurt, Im confused, I don’t know what voice I have a right to have, but mostly Im fearful for this world we live in and how I will ever explain it to, or prepare my child for it. My mind is boggled that we cant all respect the one thing we share, the gift of life.

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