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As though I needed another reason to love and adore sex columnist Dan Savage and his Savage Love podcast, last week he produced a profound show, offering his African American listeners an opportunity to speak their minds about what it’s like to be black at this current juncture in American history, and to weigh in on the Black Lives Matter Movement. As a white woman I was both humbled and heartened listening to their words. I invite you to follow the invitation of one of these African American callers, who said, “If you’re not a black person, shut up and listen to us for a minute.”
Here’s some of what they had to say, and I highly recommend listening to the entirety of this most excellent Savage Lovecast Episode 508.
Caller 1 - Watching what’s happening in my home from Japan, I can’t describe it. It makes me think of being a child watching the Nazis and watching news of them I would ask myself, “How can people see this and let it happen?” And now I’m watching this happen to people I love and care for and I can’t describe to you the rage and the sadness and the depression that it causes me. All I ask is that people do something, whether it’s looking at the companies you work for and demanding that they do something, boycotting them and not buying their products or just letting people know that you care. History will look at us, look at everyone and say, what did you do? I just ask everyone to do something that matters and try to heal those who are angered, enraged and maybe even enraged at you. Just be kind and care and protect them. Please, protect them.
Caller 2 - Every time I see a guy killed on the news it reminds me of how I lost my brother to a cop shooting at his job. The cop was drunk and my brother had gotten into an altercation with his manager. He was unarmed, yet the guy shot him while my mom was outside waiting for him. This happened 10 years ago and it’s been hell in my family since then. When I see these things in the news I just know that it’s because they’re judging us before they even get to know us.
Caller 3 - One of the bigger things to understand is that black people are not treated as human beings in this country and we never have been. We were sold as livestock and if you look at the Dred Scott decision, we’ve been told since day 1 that the promises made by this country didn’t apply to us. What’s more damning about America is the silence of my white liberal friends, the ones who want to call me and tell me how much they’re sorry about what happened, but I don’t see them even standing up to their racist uncle at Thanksgiving. The ones who share my posts on Facebook and then when something completely racist is commented on, they want to say, “Well, I’m not here to argue.” Well guess what? Black people can’t fix racism. White people have to do it. I’m gay, and gay people wanted me to stand up for Orlando, but where are those same gay men now? They’re silent. Being black in American is characterized by pain, and fear and by rejection. Being black and queer is characterized by all of that, but also alienation because we don’t even fit into our own community. So if you want to do something, challenge your own racism and challenge the racism of people who are close to you. Make sure there are social consequences for people who treat us like we’re not human. I don’t want to hear another apology and I don’t want to see any more white tears. I want to see some white action.
Caller 4 - It’s a really hard time for those of us with white friends. Their outrage is new because now there are video cameras, and the white privilege of their outrage is frustrating, so they should tread lightly right now.
Caller 5 - With regards to what white people can do in a society that often brutalizes black people - you can lend your privilege. White people have privilege and they have access to benefits like jobs and education and wealth. You can lend that, by for example, if you’re someone who routinely writes recommendations for kids who go off to college. Find a black kid who’s a great student and write a recommendation for him or her. If you’re someone who people come to for a summer job or maybe even a full time job, find a black kid who’s hardworking, who’s in your network and offer him or her a job. By lending your privilege, you can help spread the access that whiteness brings to black people who are often blocked out of that access. Police brutalize black people because we lack economic privilege. One of the ways to overcome that is to economically empower people of color. White people, you can do that by lending your privilege.
Caller 6 - I feel like a lot of people are threatened by the Black Lives Matter Movement, and the only thing that we’re actually trying to convey is that we matter, too. There’s really no reason to be threatened by that movement and it’s really something that everyone who has an interest in equal rights for all human beings should be able to get behind and not feel radical for taking that position. Black Lives Matter has been made to seem like this really radical anti-law enforcement type of organization or movement and that’s just not true. I really hope that everyone will wake up and see that this is a human rights issue, plain and simple, and I just hope that things get better from here.
Caller 7 - Thank you for understanding that black people need a space to be able to speak out about what’s going on right now because I’m connected to a lot of people on Facebook and we’re not being heard by a lot of our friends. I can tell you, that as horrible as it is to have to endure the situations of all of these shootings and killings of black men who are innocent and not even able to survive their arrests - as horrible as that is to have to endure the racism in this country - it’s almost worse having to be friends with white liberals right now who don’t shut the fuck up and give us the space to be angry about this. I got into a fight with somebody online because they were saying "All Lives Matter," because for some reason Black Lives Matter isn’t protesting peacefully enough for them, and I was like, “Fuck You! We’re upset! We’re angry!” It’s very, very difficult, so the thing I would like to have out there for those who aren't minorities, people who have not gone through this situation, is for them to shut the fuck up and listen. Listen to us. Stand next to us, hold our hands, have our backs, get behind us and be with us, absolutely. I don't care if you’re married to a black person, I don't care if you’ve had a child with a black person, I don’t care if you’re standing next to a black person or if you’ve spent the last 2 summers and 3 years in Africa. If you’re not a black person, shut up and listen to us for a minute.
Caller 8 - As a black man, I’m afraid of the police. Let that sink in. When I see a cop, I don’t feel comfortable, which is a shame, because as a law-abiding citizen of this country who doesn’t have a record, I should feel comfortable. But given the police’s history with unarmed black men, I just don’t trust them. However, it’s not only black men who have suffered at the hands of the police. Let’s not forget about women like Sandra Bland and Yvette Smith and also members of the LGBTQ community, whose suffering goes largely unreported. Also, I have to disagree with your statement that people should be forced to watch these videos. Personally, I can’t watch anymore of these videos because it’s traumatizing for me to see people of my skin color get killed for no reason. Philando Castile was murdered 24 hours after Alton Sterling and that day I was sitting at my desk at work fighting back tears. Because through these acts of violence we are constantly being told that we don’t matter, and that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Black Lives Matter. And to anyone who tries to silence us by saying all lives matter - that saying, Black Lives Matter, it doesn’t mean that our lives are more important than yours or any other race. Black Lives Matter is a reminder that despite everything we’ve gone through in this country, everything that black people have gone through, we’re human as well. Our lives matter as well.