On Wednesday night, we published an article which showcased a number of concerns parents within the Sycamore School District 427 expressed regarding an avatar (a digital caricature of oneself) a middle school teacher used in her Google classroom. The avatar wore a shirt that simply said, “Black lives matter.”
Some parents took issue with the shirt in a public post on Facebook, which has since been removed or made private, calling for educators to leave politics out of the classroom. We reached out to the original post author and the Sycamore superintendent for comment, and then published the article.
What followed was a slew of (unsurprising) division.
And why does this matter? Why does a social media spat matter in the grand scheme of things? Because, if we've been paying any attention at all to what hundreds of local protestors have been shouting these past few months, we need to continue to talk about Black life.
While many were in agreement with the parents’ concerns over what they said were unwanted politics in school, others supported the teacher's attempts at inclusivity. But largely, comments devolved into a pile of back-and-forth “us versus them” rhetoric, and I’m left to wonder why a statement as simple as declaring a life matters is met with such stark division.
That may seem a dumb quandry since division is, like, the name of the game these days. It’s an election year during a pandemic, I get it, everything is awful. But these issues – of race, of equality, of ‘If she can say this, why can’t I say that?’ – are always going to garner staunch discord.
But why? “Talking politics” is a matter of opinion, up to a certain point, right? It has to be up to a certain point, because these issues – issues of value of life, Black life — are not up for debate.
For many, the phrase has turned into something demonstrably beyond its intent, which is to uplift those who’ve been oppressed for so long.
‘BLM is domestic terrorism,’ is another argument I saw pop up frequently. Calling a movement for social justice and equality – as we’ve seen locally – “domestic terrorism,” is not only untrue, it’s adding to the division.
Many of the push back I read this week stemmed from a desire to connect the statement "Black lives matter," with actions we've seen across our country, and DeKalb County, this year. Protests, demonstrations, taking to the streets to voice dissatisfaction at a system so long denied equal access for all. And yes, how some demonstrations led, in some cities, to violence.
But that's not what we're really talking about, right? What we're really talking about is about is a need by some to de-legitamize declarations that a Black life matters.
In response to our coverage, some wondered what would happen if a teacher or student outfitted their avatar with a ‘blue lives matter’ slogan – a phrase commonly used in response or to show support of law enforcement.
Look, I get it. It’s tough to look at the state of our world and not have strong opinions. A business owner who’s front window was smashed and merchandise looted could have a hard time distinguishing between those who stole and those who protested.
A cop’s daughter (hello – it’s me) is bound to feel some type of way when so many seem against a profession which, in an ideal world, should be one of honor and truth. The problem is it's not right now.
We do a deep disservice to ourselves and to progress when we continue to think in such one-or-the-other limited terms.
This is about Black life. Black people. Speaking up for those who’ve been asking us locally, for generations, to make real changes.
The fact that so many take the phrase as a slight against the Other – police officers, white life, etc. – means they still don’t get it. The statement ‘Black lives matter,’ doesn’t mean ‘Black lives matter more.’ It means, ‘Black lives matter, too.’
‘Black lives mattering’ is only seen these days as an anti-police statement because people are, by nature, defensive. And Black lives need to matter outside of the policing realm, too – in education, in hiring, in housing, in acquiring loans, in owning property, starting a business, and, yes, in the justice system.
Black life mattering is not political. That is the whole point. Apparently our response to it is. But it doesn't have to be. How are we suppoesd to foster a climate of healing and togetherness when we can't even get that concept down?
The point is when someone says ‘Black lives matter,’ why do we feel inclined to respond with something other than 'Yes they do'?
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