Beyond Bernie Sanders and Black Lives Matter
Lately I've been pondering the interruptions of Bernie Sanders campaign events by Black Lives Matter folks and all of the ensuing noise.*
*(Full disclosure: I did personally comment to a post in which I said it was plausible that the latest two individuals were hired by another campaign. I am not saying this is the case, just that hiring people to voice a particular political opinion in order to help or harm a campaign is not unusual; there's now even an agency called "Crowd on Demand" which provides such services)
I have little interest in debating the validity of the women who took part in the latest interruption or the validity of the tactic. (Though I will say that I'm glad to see the campaign putting forward a stronger position regarding race issues. To be fair though, when we saw Sanders in Portland, ME he did speak about race inequality just as much as any other issue, and this was before the interruptions began.)
My question is this: Why all the noise?
All I have seen offered by anyone on this issue in my daily online travels have been people pointing fingers, name-calling, anger, and narratives which rely heavily on the words "them" and "us."
None of this does us any good at all. I've seen a lot of people (myself included) asking why BLM would go after the one candidate who actually has any interest in civil rights issues without receiving any answer. (I am not suggesting that nobody tried to answer these questions anywhere on the internet, just that I had not seen any.) Then, rather than digging for answers, speculation ensues, some of it pretty wild. I went looking for answers and found some that made sense, some that didn't, and virtually nobody who seemed interested in having a real discussion about it, black or white.
Ok, I guess I sort of know why. There may be other things at play but it seems as though much of the problem centers around 1) a rage born of oppression (no shit, really?) and 2) white fragility. We can debate which is more valid, or that people of color need to chill, or white people need to get over themselves, or whatever...but none of that really matters because both things need to drop (at least to a lower simmering point) in order for there to be any real communication at all.
It's tempting for me to say, "Screw it. I'm just going to try to be the best person I can be to everyone and not worry about this shit." But that seems like the exact sort of attitude that has put us in the very situation we are in today.
I want the discussion. I want to try to understand. I want to help change things. And I know I'm not alone. But if we are unwilling to talk then none of that happens.
Yes, if you talk to me about racial issues I will probably ask stupid questions and say dumb shit, just like when I've had discussions about religion, gender issues, and so on...it's what people do when they are learning... if I already knew everything we wouldn't have to talk to begin with, there would be no problem to talk about. There has to be some space allowed for ignorance to happen without having it completely shut down the dialogue. How can you shine a light on ignorance if it isn't allowed to come out of its hole?
And I'm not sure that the internet is the best place to have this conversation. Yes, messages can reach many more people more quickly, but tone and body language are so important in communication, especially with emotionally charged topics. Of course Maine isn't exactly racially diverse, so in my experience, when race does come up in face-to-face conversations it's usually, once again, a bunch of rather pale people speculating over something we know very little about.
So what's the answer? I really don't know. I just want very much for the vitriol to ebb and the conversation to flow.
If you want to talk I'm all ears.