As I sit down to write my column this week, I have to say my heart is heavy. I think I have always felt too much and at times it has been more than my heart can bear. This is one of those times.
Yet I will pour my heart out to you and try to put my feelings into words as loving and eloquently as I can.
Black Lives Matter. I said it! They do; they matter!
Now this phrase or idea gets so much opposition that it is crazy. I see it time and time again… no, All Lives Matter. Well, where does it say they don’t? How does saying Black Lives Matter mean that other lives don’t?
I see all the time, “Well, say ‘All Lives Matter.’” Yet, that does not show the struggles that our darker brothers and sisters are facing. It is ignoring their struggle. Before you tell me they don’t face struggle, hold on. We're not at that part yet.
I think I could tell you I could fix the issue some people have with the “Black Lives Matter” with one word - just three little letters - “TOO.” Black Lives Matter Too!!
Because they do, as much as anyone else, and that is what they are saying. They matter too, they deserve to feel safe too, they deserve love too! They deserve to be included when we say we are all created equal. When we say “our fellow Americans,” that means them TOO!
Do you think they feel loved, accepted, included, or safe? I don’t think they do, and I am not okay with that. For everyone claiming we’re too sensitive and easily offended, wow, how many people are offended cause we point out that black lives matter too?
Now if I start saying Black Lives Matter Too, that should fix it, right? Sadly not, because some will still have a problem with that. Many need to be honest and realize that the problem they have with this is the word “Black.” Not all, but many.
Now I know people don’t want to admit it, but a lot of us have a hard time with things that are different from us, or that they don’t understand. It simply often is a lack of knowledge. Different cultures and things we don’t know much about often create fear, but we can conquer that together.
Sadly though, some times the problem is just hate in a person’s heart, and you can’t change a person’s heart.
But if someone tells you that Black Lives Matter Too, and you still have a problem… Well you may need to take some time and search your heart to see what is there causing the problem.
We can change, you know. But something is wrong if you cannot tell yourself that Black Lives Matter Too, If you can’t say to yourself that a black man, that a black woman, and that a black child matters just as much as anyone else. You have a problem. Maybe it is a problem that you didn’t even realize you had. Maybe you let fear or hate creep in your heart without knowing.
Let’s face it, we are human and sometimes fear and hate sneaks up on us all. I admit is has happened to me before; I find myself hating something and I’m not even sure why. We are human. But we fight that and fill those spots with love. Change is never easy; it is hard and uncomfortable. Yet it has to happen in order for us to grow.
Being stuck in one place or mindset is never good for anyone, hasn’t history taught us that?
For those who want to try and say that our black citizens aren’t struggling, now I will talk to you. As a white person I do not fear going outside of my house and being harassed for just walking down the street. Nobody looks at me and gets scared. I can jog, well not really (lol), but if I could I would be able to do it and not fear someone jumping in their vehicle and chasing me down, demanding to know what I was doing. I don’t fear being pulled over by law enforcement, and I don’t get harassed for gathering in a public park.
Now I believe some of this is due to where I live, and I will get to that in a minute too. But these are things we don’t think of, because we don’t have to. It doesn’t affect us, and we don’t deal with it on the daily. So we don’t see a problem, but the problem is there.
Would it kill you to put yourself in the shoes of another human being for just a few minutes and see their pain? To feel their hurt, to try and understand that just because it doesn’t affect you, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect others.
It is called compassion and empathy.
Put yourself in their shoes and walk, or jog, I dare you for a bit… then come back and reach your hand out and let the darker skinned members of our community know that you love them. That you see them and you love them. Give them some love! Don’t try and tell me “Well, I don’t see color!” Because unless you’re blind or color blind, yes, you do in fact see color; we all do. See the colors and embrace it the way you would want to be embraced.
Now I said that I would address the fact that where we live is part of the reason I also feel safe. I don’t believe our area has the same problems that inner cities and larger cities have, partly because we are a smaller community. We know each other, where in larger cities they see so many faces that I believe people desensitize themselves to others. Here we know one another and we care about the sufferings of others. For the most part, but not always. We come together when a community member is fighting cancer, we will do benefits to help them. We bring our neighbors things when they struggle, and we are there for one another.
Yet I don’t think we see some of our community members struggling, or see that they are hurting. People in our area are indeed hurting and they are struggling and they need us.
I believe in my community and believe that as a whole our hearts are good, and I believe we can reach out and give some love to those who are hurting right now. Because although I think our community is better than the nation as a whole on this, there is still a problem. You know it as well as I do, and although you may not want to talk about it, we have to. We can’t change and heal if we don’t talk about it.
Because there is a problem!
Now recently our town had a march, and it was peaceful and it said a lot about our community, in my mind. It showed that those in our area have respect and could voice their concerns without rioting, being disrespectful, and without violence. Again most of us were raised right and it shows!
I saw some issues that people had with this march, however, and I would like to address them, and I would like to draw some attention to them for only one second and then ignore them because they were just plain ignorant.
First, people asked on social media, “Why are we protesting something that happened 1,500 miles away?” Well you see, we may be out in the country, but we are a part of this country. Injustice is injustice no matter where it is and everyone everywhere needs to fight it.
The black members of our community face issues right here in our community and the time for that to change has passed. It’s 2020 and we need to stand together, and yes, together, right here in Mineral County, West Virginia.
Others commented, “The cops who killed George Floyd are already in jail, what more do you want?” I would say those who are marching want to be treated equal, and to be loved and to be able to feel safe in their own country. Isn’t that what we all want? Why should they want less? It’s not just one thing either, and it’s not new. That is why it is building, so now more than ever we want peace!
Someone else asked, “Why are they protesting our local law enforcement? They are good.” Nobody is protesting our local law enforcement at all. We have many amazing law enforcement officers in our area; many who came out to the protest to talk or offer help in any way they could. They kept an eye out for the protesters and offered support. The march had nothing to do with our local law enforcement. In fact, law enforcement officers around the country have shown support for this. They work hard everyday to protect and to serve their communities and I want to see them all safe.
It is not okay for an officer to use excessive force on anyone, but one bad cop does not mean they are all bad. The few do not represent the whole. Same with those protesting peacefully for change and those rioting. The two are not the same.
Nobody who has an ounce of human decency in them supports rioting or hurting others. Please also don’t confuse that. There is no room to hate or harm others in life. That is not okay with any of us.
“Why not ‘All Lives Matter,’ because we all matter in the eyes of God and we are all the same?” Yes, you are so right! God loves us all and sees us all the same and it is a beautiful sentiment. Sadly, human eyes don’t see things that way, and it is great that God loves us all the same and trust me, I wish humans would too. Sadly they don’t and until they do, we need to stand up for those who suffer.
If the world would all follow what Jesus taught, the world would be a great place, in my opinion. Yet when you have those who still refuse to admit that Jesus was not in fact white, and see those of color less than… we have a problem.
To go into this a bit further, I personally believe that since Jesus taught us love above all else… that I would like to see my religious friends, neighbors, and community members showing some love for those of color right now more than ever because they are hurting and need it. That is what Jesus taught and “love” is the most mentioned word in the Bible.
Let’s do more of it, shall we?
Some have said the marchers are just doing it to get attention. Yes they are. They’re trying to get people to see a great injustice that is happening in the world and even in our area. They hope it gets attention so people can change. Isn’t that the point?
Now, here are some more comments left on social media: “You can tell they don’t work, yet I have to cause I don’t get a check given to me,” “Does any of these idiots have jobs?” “ Welfare Matters,” “West Virginia is a stand your ground state so keep it on that side of the bridge,” “Guarantee it will blow up in your face literally and be perfectly legal,” “I hope no-one I know or like is there,” “If they block the roads I am driving through full speed,” “May God be with them,” and so many more that I can’t even bring myself to put in print.
Do you see a problem? Do you see intolerance? Because I sure do.
That is all the attention you’re getting from me. Because here is the thing, you are the minority now. You, with your hate, are the minority. Because there is more of us who are sick of your behavior than there is of you. They stand and we stand with them.
Now I marched alongside my daughters the other day and a lot of other amazing people that were out there. I loved that my girls saw injustice and wanted to stand up against it. I was proud. I saw a lot of people coming together and it was beautiful. It was emotional too, as I saw many cry… including myself. I saw people peacefully coming together to raise awareness for a problem that has plagued our nation for far too long!
Do you know what else I saw? I saw members of our community driving by and flipping them off, I saw people saying horrible things to people for no other reason but hate. I saw some ignorant childish behavior from grown adults, and you know what… I was ashamed and quite frankly, mad as hell.
I walked with black members of my community for a few hours and hated what I saw. I was shocked and yet they weren’t. Why? Because they have grown used to that ignorant behavior, where I have not had to experience it. They sat silent through it, while quite frankly, I wanted to lose my temper and I would have told a few of you what I thought if given the chance.
They should not have to be used to that; nobody should. Yet you wonder why some are growing mad and tired.
It is hard for people to put themselves into the shoes of people of color, sometimes myself included. So I would like to make a few observations. I have a lot of friends who ride motorcycles; some belong to groups, clubs, or organizations. I have seen many times where they shared or posted stories where they have been discriminated against for being bikers.
I saw where a man said that when he wasn’t in his motorcycle clothes, he looked like any other person, yet while out on the bike or dressed in his leather or vest, people treated him differently. He said he saw people act afraid of him or keep their kids away.
He said these people don’t know the good that their club did’ they only see a big scary man in leather wearing a vest with a patch. He was judged, and he was discriminated against.
He can remove those clothes and vest and it changes.
Now imagine it being the color of your skin that made others judge you, and be afraid of you. You can’t change that; you deal with it daily.
I love seeing the videos of bikers standing with and fist bumping the peaceful protesters. I love seeing people using their clubs to spread love; let’s see more. Too many people are judge for the wrong reasons!
During this COVID-19 pandemic, many people were very fearful. Do we remember when nurses and medical workers were being treated rather poorly when wearing their scrubs, due to people being afraid of catching the virus? They were afraid that since they were on the front lines, they weren’t safe to be around.
People let fear bring out some rather crappy behavior, and fear does that a lot.
Now imagine fear causing people to treat your poorly on a daily basis. We can not allow fear to rule our hearts.
We all can think of a time where we felt judged, and I bet none of us liked it. That is all you have to do; think of that and open your hearts. Open your hearts enough to reach out to people of color and give them a little love and support. Nobody likes to feel judged over something you have no control over.
I believe in my community and have faith that we can be different. I believe for the most part our hearts are good. I believe that many don’t realize that others are hurting, because if they did they would reach out.
Please try to put yourself in the shoes of another. Feel the pain of all those hurting. I know we have it in us and I know we can show the world how it is done right, right here in our little community.
We can show the world what love looks like.
I love each and ever member of my community. I may not always agree with you, and we don’t have to agree, but I still love you. Can’t you do the same? Can you open your heart and love? I don’t care if you consider yourself country, redneck, black, white, left, right, or a purple freaking unicorn… let’s show some love for one another right now.
It is time, it is passed time and it is needed. Let’s learn from our differences, share our experiences and love.
It is time for love and I am sending it to each and everyone of you right now! That is my message and here is my other message. I believe that we can heal our hearts and rid it of hate. We can replace the hate in our hearts with love.
Yet I know there are some who doesn’t want change; they want to continue to hate because they know nothing else. I feel sorry for you; it must be so exhausting spending so much time hating people for no reason other than the color of their skin or some other stupid thing you decided to pick.
And although I feel sorry for you, your time is done. It is over. Hate can crawl back into the darkness from which it came. It is time for the light to rise and love to take over. It is love’s time to shine.
Now if you read that part and the voice in your head just said, “Our time isn’t done,” then yes I am talking to you. For the rest of us just read that and said “YES!”
Hate has had its time for way too long. It is 2020 people, and the rest of us are tired of it. Dr Martin Luther King was shot in 1968; he led marches and had a dream and 50 years later were still fighting to make his dream come true. Enough! It is love’s time to shine!
As an adult I am proud to see these young kids lead in the way they are, standing together and holding hands, screaming for love and peace. It is their time to shine. Because seriously, what have the rest of us done with it it in 50 years?
It is time for love to take over and chase hate back to the cowardly hole it climbed up from.
It is time to stand together and say we have had enough and no more will hate rule our hearts, our lives, or our nation.
I will stand with them and I am not “Just Saying” it, I’ll be screaming it. I’ll be screaming while I march if I have too. It is love’s time to shine!
Barbara High is an award-winning staff writer for the News Tribune and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.