Why I support Black Lives Matter
by David Stein
Black Lives Matter MN first came to my attention when protests shut down I35. My initial reaction was similar to that around the water cooler at work. Ferguson had happened a few hundred miles away from liberal, progressive and certainly un-racist Minneapolis. We didn’t get it. We didn’t think that it was necessary. We were exempt.
I pulled out my iPhone and spent a few minutes finding another way home. Once of the nice things about the Twin Cities is that there’s always three different ways to get anywhere. But I felt irritated, annoyed and inconvenienced. “Shutting down the highways aren’t going to make a difference. This isn’t going to change anyone’s mind” I thought.
My next thought was of Tamir Rice’s mother. I wondered how inconvenienced she felt after she was cuffed by the cops that shot her child. I wondered if Eric Garner’s family felt annoyed when they got the call that Eric had died. It was that moment that I knew why they were marching. From that point on I started paying more attention to what they were marching for.
The status quo is never going to work for everyone. As a realist and pragmatist I recognize that some people are going to be born into privilege and some are people are going to be dealt a tougher hand from day one. That will always be the way of the world to some extent. But when a disparity of equity is as great and as arbitrary of racism and sexism are today I feel that we have a moral imperative to exhaust all reasonable efforts to promote equality before claiming “victory” and calling it a day.
So far we have failed to do so as a culture. There is more we can do, even more that we should do, and I believe a vast majority recognize that in principle even if we differ on the degree. I understand the criticism, concern and even outrage that many of my friends and colleagues expressed over blocking of I35 and organizing at MOA without permission. “They should try something else” is a common sentiment, but it’s rarely expounded. Whenever I hear “why can’t they just x, y or z?” the answer that almost always pops into my head is that they tried that already and it didn’t work.
If you have any degree of commitment to combating cultural racism you have a duty to provide an alternative to any course of action that you criticize. If you criticize something without providing an alternative idea, it’s not criticism at all it’s whining.
Civil disobedience does not offend my value system. My personal value system recognizes honesty and pacifism over cultural obedience and legal compliance. The conditions of civil disobedience are that your actions are not violent and that you are fully open and honest about what you are doing and why you are doing it. The U.S.A. has had a proud history and tradition of pacifist activism and civil disobedience ranging from Henry David Thoreau to Martin Luther King Jr.
I have the greatest respect for Black Lives Matter Minneapolis because they carry on the spirit of that tradition. They’ve reminded me that acting with integrity sometimes means stepping outside the cultural norms of “good behavior.” I understand that any group that challenges the established comfort zones of a population is going to be reprimanded, opposed, and even demonized. But I believe that real progress and productive change, both personally and culturally, can only be achieved in the unfamiliar realm of disquiet that lies just beyond the guarded borders our comfort zone. Contentment will never create new meaning for our lives or our character. Without challenging ourselves there can be no element of bravery.
So next time you hear the phrase “no one is going to change their mind over these protests” I present myself as evidence to the contrary. I am a different mind than I was as a direct result of the protests. I am thankful for Black Lives Matters movement for the difference they have made in my life. They have my full support and I stand will all protesters around the country that make personal sacrifices to continue the longstanding American tradition of activism in the name of equity and integrity.