Black Lives Are Not Expendable

black lives matter

It’s been another sad week in America’s history. Two more black men were gunned down by police. Keith Lamont Scott was shot in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma, leading to more civil unrest, and many people are just plain tired of it. But we can’t become numb. We must refuse to let this be the new normal. Black lives are not expendable.

I don’t understand how Ahmad Khan Rahami (a man who made, planted and exploded bombs in New York and New Jersey over the weekend with the intent to kill and terrorize as many people as possible) can be taken in alive, but not Mr. Crutcher who’s SUV has stalled on the highway. I don’t understand how Dylann Roof, accused of the racially motivated massacre of nine African American parishioners last year at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church, was taken in alive and treated to a burger, but not Mr. Scott. So what if Mr. Scott may have had a gun on him. North Carolina is an open carry state. The cops there should know how to take someone with a gun into custody without having to kill them.

Black people are mad, and I don’t blame them. I’m mad too.

See…these are my people to raise, love and protect…

kids at Crater of Diamonds State Park
My kids digging at Crater of Diamonds State Park

I don’t like having my seven year old tell me that she had another nightmare about Donald Trump sending all the brown and black people away. I don’t like having an internet troll threaten to kill my baby girl. And I don’t want to have to explain to my daughters that their daddy didn’t make it home from work because he had a flat tire and then got shot by a police officer.

I’ve written about race on my blog before. I hoped these stories of injustice would be isolated events, but sadly they are becoming commonplace.

Quotes on Race and Privilege — July 2016

Am I Polarizing? — July 2016

Dear White People — July 2016

7 Ways Whites Can Contribute to #BlackLivesMatter — July 2016

Dear Mayor Smith — July 2016

When Racism Hits Home — March 2016

To the Girl in the Hijab — December 2015

That Time I Was in Slate Magazine — October 2015

I Have a Dream in 2014: rules if stopped by the police — September 2014

Color Blind is a Lie — August 2014

When will the madness end?

Quotes on Race and Privilege

White privilege is a set of advantages and/or immunities that white people benefit from on a daily basis beyond those common to all others. White privilege can exist without white people’s conscious knowledge of its presence and it helps to maintain the racial hierarchy in this country. (source)race race

 

Here are a few quotes that help explain privilege and race:

“To be white, or straight, or male, or middle class is to be simultaneously ubiquitious and invisible. You’re everywhere you look, you’re the standard against which everyone else is measured. You’re like water, like air. People will tell you they went to see a “woman doctor” or they will say they went to see “the doctor.” People will tell you they have a “gay colleague” or they’ll tell you about a colleague. A white person will be happy to tell you about a “Black friend,” but when that same person simply mentions a “friend,” everyone will assume the person is white. Any college course that doesn’t have the word “woman” or “gay” or “minority” in its title is a course about men, heterosexuals, and white people. But we call those courses “literature,” “history” or “political science.”
This invisibility is political.”
? Michael S. Kimmel, Privilege: A Reader

“Race doesn’t really exist for you because it has never been a barrier. Black folks don’t have that choice.”
? Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah

“The irony of American history is the tendency of good white Americanas to presume racial innocence. Ignorance of how we are shaped racially is the first sign of privilege. In other words. It is a privilege to ignore the consequences of race in America.”
? Tim Wise

“Since the notion that we should all forsake attachment to race and/or cultural identity and be “just humans” within the framework of white supremacy has usually meant that subordinate groups must surrender their identities, beliefs, values, and assimilate by adopting the values and beliefs of privileged-class whites, rather than promoting racial harmony this thinking has created a fierce cultural protectionism.”
? bell hooks, Killing Rage: Ending Racism

 

 

Dear White People:

Yesterday I was on the air with Deborah Robinson Allen on KARN. The topic of the one-hour show was “Dear White People, Do Black Lives Matter?” We could’ve talked for hours with all the callers that lit up the phones: some siding with the #BlackLivesMatter movement and some not. I’m so glad to be a part of the narrative.

Here are few snippets from the show:

This is a subject of which I am still learning. I got some really good info and history from an interview between Moms Rising executive director Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner and anti-racism activist Tim Wise:

American history is filled with racial tension and white supremacy — ideologically and structurally. It’s part of America since our inception. We (white people) have a legacy of injustice aimed at black and brown people — and most white people don’t want to deal with it. But it’s that history that explains the current tension and conflict. Too often white Americans ignore that. We need to become more familiar with that history and see what black and brown people have always seen.

We need to listen, learn and take action. Don’t get stuck in the listening. But also don’t act impulsively without having listened enough.

Action — don’t do it alone. Connect with organizations doing the work already like: Black Lives Matter, Black Youth Project 100, SURJ (standing up for racial justice), Color of Change, Innocence Project, Cure Violence.org, Moms Rising, etc.

Only when we get together and have that collective conversation can we figure it out.
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7 Ways Whites Can Contribute to #BlackLivesMatter

Last week just sucked. It’s a tumultuous time in our nation. Innocent lives have taken too soon by gun violence. People died at the hands of police, as well as the hands of the deranged. It all can seem just hopeless.

But I will not give up hope. I will not back down. It is now, in this moment, that I have chosen to stand up against injustice. I’m not sure what I’m doing all the time, but I am moving forward.

My letter to the mayor of my city is bringing forth fruit. We have a meeting tomorrow night at city hall with the mayor, the police chief and a local congressman. It’s an open meeting, so I hope to see a good showing of concerned citizens who are ready to put our differences aside and find the common good.

But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!  Amos 5:24

I have a few suggestions for my white friends who feel unsure about how they can contribute to the #BlackLivesMatter movement or who just want to see more peace in their community between them and their black and brown neighbors.

  1. Admit your white privilege.
  2. Examine your life. Do you “do life” with people who don’t look like you? Do you have people of color over to your house for dinner?
  3. Think about the subtle messages you send to your children. Do books and toys in your house reflect diverse populations or are all the dolls white? Do your children feel free to invite a black or brown friend over to play?
  4. Get involved with your local government. Study the policing policies in your city. Do officers in your city undergo consistent racial bias training? Does your local police department require officers to use minimal force and de-escalation tactics? If not, let them know that these things are important to you.
  5. Get to know your local police officers. Let them know that you care about their safety AND that you care about the safety of black and brown people too. NLRPD
  6. VOTE. And don’t just vote along party lines like you normally do. Really look at the candidates and what their stance is on these issues. Here’s a handy-dandy candidate tracker from Campaign Zero.
  7. PRAY. Pray your eyes will be opened to injustice around you. Pray for wisdom. And pray against the true enemy, Satan. We are obviously under a spiritual attack in this country. Satan loves to see us divided and killing each other. But he will not win. I’ve read the end of the story!

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Eph 6:12

I certainly am not an expert in the matters of social justice or the black experience. But as a white woman married to a black man and mom to four black daughters, I have learned a few things along the way. I hope these suggestions help you.

UPDATE: Here is a podcast from Tim Wise that speaks perfectly to this subject:

Tim Wise on “Breaking Through” (w/Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner) 7/11/16: Discussion on White Anti-Racism

 

Please offer up more suggestions in the comments. (Keep it positive. Obscene or racist comments will be blocked.)

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Dear Mayor Smith:

July 7, 2016

Dear Mayor Smith,

My name is Stacey Valley, and I am a long-time resident of North Little Rock. I’m sure you are aware that in the past two days two black men have been killed by police officers in other parts of the country. While we don’t know all of the details, the outcomes of both events could have been avoided.

black father
my husband and youngest daughter on Father’s Day

As a wife of a black man and the mother of four black daughters, I am obviously concerned about their safety when they leave home. I am not suggesting that we have a problem in North Little Rock. In fact, we have several wonderful cops in our city that want to make a difference in the lives of people of color. However there is an inherent danger in being black in this nation, and honestly, I’m scared for my family.

black children
my children enjoying a cool treat at Pineapple Whip

I would like to discuss with you what we can do to ensure that black men, women and children are not viewed as an automatic threat when North Little Rock police interact with them. Perhaps we can create a forum where officers meet the black citizens in this city before pulling them over or stopping them on the playground. Maybe doing so will decrease North Little Rock’s risk of ever having an Alton Sterling incident. Please let me know your thoughts on this matter.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Stacey Valley

 

This letter was inspired (and mostly plagiarized) from a similar letter than Shun Strickland wrote the mayor of Springdale, AR. 
K-Swiss Women's Metallics

When Racism Hits Home

Before I adopted my African-American daughter six years ago, my dad sat me down and realistically went over the future I faced as a single white woman with a black child. He wanted to make sure I was prepared for the looks, the whispers, and the judgment that would most likely come my way. But I can honestly say, I didn’t see it — no more than curiosity really. Or if it was there, it was subtle enough that I missed it.adoption

When I decided to marry a black man with two black daughters in 2013, again my dad and I talked about what could happen when you choose to marry outside your race. Like I did, my dad loved Anthony and welcomed him as a son-in-law, so I knew his words of wisdom came from true concern and caring. But once again, I haven’t felt any real condemnation from others for my relationship with Anthony and his girls.happycouple.jpg

 

But then this past Friday, I got my first real taste of racism, and it was HATEFUL and it HURT. I saw this comment from a stranger on an Instagram photo of my baby girl, Quinn:

racismMy jaw dropped. I couldn’t speak. I stuttered enough words out to get Anthony to take a look for himself. My blood boiled. I wanted to crawl through my phone and strangle Sorrydin. How could someone say that about a precious child — MY precious child? And how could someone have that much evil in them to want to kill a baby?!?!

I also showed our two older girls. To my bewilderment, Anthony and the girls didn’t seem too shocked. THEN IT HIT ME, this is too normal for them; this hate was nothing new. My heart broke.

At church Sunday, Pastor Craig preached on the story of Joseph from Genesis, and said that this story teaches us that we can’t control how we are mistreated, but we can control how we respond.

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5:44

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” 1 Peter 3:9

Pastor Craig said that there are three reasons to forgive:
1. We are commanded to forgive.
2. Because to not forgive imprisons us.
3. It can set our offender on a new path.

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”  — Lewis B. Smedes
I have asked God to help me forgive Sorrydin, whoever he is. I pray that somehow he is set on a new path, a path of love instead of hate, a path of unity instead of racism. I hope that for our nation too.
P.S. Forgiveness does NOT mean no justice. I have filed a complaint with the FBI’s cyber crimes unit among others. But justice isn’t my responsibility. I will leave it to law enforcement and my God.
 

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That time I was in Slate magazine.

Over a year ago, my husband and I posed for a local photographer doing a photo collection called “Sticks and Stones” of interracial couples to document the hatred that is still very present. It was so interesting meeting Donna Pinckley and posing for her. slate

Little did I know that Donna would be interviewed and featured in Slate magazine. A friend of mine saw the article and sent me the link.

I’ve so very honored to be a small part of this piece, and I hope it produces positive change.

P.S. This photo collection was also featured in The Huffington Post and Buzzfeed this week!

 Hint Water

I have a dream in 2014: rules if stopped by the police

My husband’s parents faithfully taught him and his siblings these rules, doctor so they would forever stay in their hearts and minds. As a white girl, and my parents never had to tell me these things. Police were not to be feared as a white kid. Unfortunately that isn’t the case for blacks in America. I pray that one day my children and their children’s children live in a world where these rules do not have to exist.

rulesifstoppedbypolice

collegeofficialgear

Color Blind Is a Lie

I consider myself a fair writer. Really good writers craft words to describe how they are feeling. Their words paint a picture in the reader’s mind. I’m better at facts…like instructions for a recipe or a travelogue. But when things are hard, illness unpleasant, advice painful, that’s when my words dry up. Like the past week with the crap going on in Ferguson, Missouri — I’m mad and I’m crying and I want to do something, to say something, to write something that will make a difference.

profilepicAug14I’m white. I was born white, and I will always be white. Not much I can do about that.

I married a black man. I wasn’t looking to marry a black man, any man for that matter. I was happy being single. But God brought a most amazing man into my life who is crazy about me and my (now our) daughter, and I married him last year. I love him very much.

We have three black daughters. They are 5, 10 and 15. They probably experience racism at school, but I don’t see it. To be honest, I’m blinded to the subtle nuances of racism most of the time. That’s part of the white privilege of my existence.

I pray that God protects our girls. I wish they didn’t have to experience prejudice and hatred. I try to surround them with people who love them just as they are — like I do.

I’m glad I don’t have black sons. I don’t know how mommas of black sons survive with the constant worry that their boys may not make it home alive from running an errand.

My husband experiences racism. He gets watched in stores. Once in Wal-Mart, he was going down an aisle, and a woman and her daughter turned onto that aisle and saw him. The mom grabbed her daughter and raced away to another aisle. The same thing happened when we vacationed in Bruges, Belgium, this summer — so it’s not just in the States. That’s just crazy. Anthony is one of the nicest people that I’ve ever met. It baffles me.

I know that systemic racism is real. I see it in my field of health care with the health disparities that minorities face over and over again.

When I was growing up, my parents taught me to be color blind. They taught me that no one is better than any one else because of the color of their skin — that we should treat everyone the same. So that’s what I tried to do. I had black friends growing up. In 4th grade, one of my best friends was a girl named Sybil. Sybil would spend the night with me on occasion, and once I convinced Mom to let me spend the night with Sybil…in the projects. Years later, Mom told me that after she dropped me off at Sybil’s to spend the night, she locked the doors of her car, drove away and prayed.

K-Swiss Women's Metallics
BEING COLOR BLIND IS A LIE.

My parents had good intentions when they said be color blind, but the reality is that doesn’t deal with the underlying issue. Being color blind stuffs the past into the closet. Being color blind doesn’t acknowledge our black friends’ life experiences — the often-times hard, painful injustice they experience just for not being white.

A poll conducted by Pew showed that blacks are about twice as likely as whites to say that the shooting of Michael Brown “raises important issues about race that need to be discussed.”

Racial tension is real. White privilege is real. Racism exists — in most (if not all) of us. We shouldn’t sweep it under the rug and pretend we’re all good. We’re not good. We need to be intentional about making a change.

Friend someone of a different race. Invite them out for coffee. Or better yet, invite them over to your house.

Have a real, honest, civil conversation about race. Ask each other about their experiences and how we can help each other.

Make sure your kids have close friends of other races. And model that yourself.

Dig deep into your soul and identify any hidden racism in your own heart. Pray that God will change you. Pray that God will make you ache for racial reconciliation.

I certainly don’t think that I have all the answers. I don’t think that I’m guilt-free when it comes to racism just because I married a black man. I know that I still have prejudices that need to come into the light to be destroyed. And I pray that God will free me of those demons. For they are destroying us.