2020 has been, by far, one of the hardest years our country has ever seen.
Just as we were starting to be able to breath a little from COVID, our country was shocked by the death of George Floyd. In the aftermath of his death, there has been a response from this country which I have never witnessed in my life.
From where I sit professionally in RL, it’s an exhausting time. As protests and riots have spread across the country, I have not only had to process my own emotions regarding George Floyd’s death, but I have also had to be a part of our city’s response to the unrest. With the hospital I work for having gone on lock down multiple times as protesters have converged on the state and city monuments, mostly commemorating the Civil War, I have been working long shifts starting in the afternoon into the early morning hours as part of our emergency management team here.
Between my work responsibilities and my own personal feelings about the state of race relations in the US, I have been very quiet for the past several days. As I shared in a post I made on Facebook on Monday, I have remained quiet not because I haven’t been impacted emotionally by all that has happened. I have remained quiet because I have needed to process feelings before I could write. Even now, as I write this, I am still taking breaks, walking around, trying to find the right words.
Despite what people want to say, subtle racism is still very prevalent in the United States today. I see it at work. I see it when I go to the store or mall. I see it in crime statistics, living conditions and in the indigent care patient population at our hospital. It’s in our government. Despite the Civil War having been decided over 150 years ago and the Civil Rights Act being passed over 50 years ago, black Americans make up 12% of the US House of Representatives. Believe it or not, this number is far better than the US Senate where only 10 black Americans have ever served.
What’s even more upsetting for me is that within Second Life, we have this opportunity to create this perfect world where all can be accepted and judged on our character and not the color of their skin. In fact, I often wonder how many of our SL residents who present in SL as white, Southeast Asian or some other more accepted ethnic background are black in RL. Additionally, subtle acts of racism still play out every day on the grid. If you don’t believe me, let me share a story with you.
A very dear friend of mine in Second Life is black. Her avatar is black and she is black in real life. Many years ago, she was in the modeling circuit in SL. She worked incredibly hard at being successful. She attended a modeling academy. She followed their advice. She practiced. She learned new skills. And you know what? At one point, she was told by someone that her chances of winning would be better if her avatar was white.
Wait…excuse me? WHAT???
I about had a stroke when my friend shared this with me and, I admit, my heart broke for her. This is a stark reminder of the battles blacks throughout the world are still fighting, even in the so called perfect digital world of Second Life.
I think one of the struggles I am having through all of this is why it’s so hard for people to stand up and acknowledge that black lives do matter? Why is it so hard to make this simple statement and work to pressure true positive change in our world?
During the Me Too movement, I never heard anyone complain or argue about the need to push reform in women’s rights and the treatment women received. MANY men come forward supporting the Me Too movement and using its hashtag. Most people seem to have little trouble standing up for the LGBTQ movement and using hash tags supporting equality for people like myself. So why is it that when our black friends and loved ones ask us to stand by them and acknowledge that black lives matter, so many will balk and say that “all lives matter”?
Ironically, most in the Black Lives Matter’s movement never want to deny anyone else opportunities. They just want the same opportunities the rest of us have been given just by the color of our skin. They don’t want to worry about being pulled over just because of their skin color. They don’t want to be treated less just because their skin is darker. While they may technically have equality under the law, we…through our own prejudices and fears…ultimately end up denying our fellow citizens of color the opportunities we take advantage of every day.
See, the thing is…white privilege does exist in America. I’ve enjoyed the perks of it. I enjoyed the perks of it for many years of my life. I’ve also had it stripped from me…twice. Once when I was with my ex-wife, who was black. I had it stripped from me again when the physical changes of transition became visible to the rest of the world. When I was with my ex, I was treated the same as her…rudely, disregarded, ignored…despite the fact we were two intelligent, capable and law abiding citizens. She was black and so we were treated differently. I was treated differently when I wasn’t with her.
And as a transgender woman, I fear how I will be treated by law enforcement if I am pulled over. I listen to the whispers and see the looks I get in the grocery store. My anxiety spikes and I am on edge the entire time I do something as routine and simple as using the bathroom when I am out in public. Often times, I actually will avoid going to the bathroom in public for fear of being assaulted.
So why am I willing to say “Black Lives Matter” without reservation? I am willing to say it because I know a portion of their pain. Not all of it but some of it. I am willing to say it because I believe that all of us, regardless of skin color, should be treated the same. I am willing to say it because within the LGBTQ population there are many black individuals who need our support. I am willing to say black lives matter because I have friends who have endured unequal treatment because of nothing more than their skin they were born with and they are some of the kindest, most intelligent and talented individuals I know…but some people in the world will never see that because they refuse to look past the color of their skin.
Here’s the thing…yes, all lives do matter. But right now is not the time, especially if you are white, to try to lump us all together like that. It minimizes and trivializes the unequal treatment black men, women and children endure every day. It allows those who truly do milk the rewards of white privilege from having to step up and take a stand that threatens their sense of security. It denies a group of people who have been treated horribly by this country for centuries the ability to truly feel equal and respected for the quality of their souls.
Black Americans deserve the same rights, privileges and security that all of us enjoy every day. We should not be turning our backs on them. We should be walking with them…hand in hand…supporting them. They deserve our support.
They deserve that support not just right now, when a social movement is actively fight for them and when marching with them is popular. The deserve that support every single day of our lives. The US, and the world, need to hear all of our voices say that #BlackLivesMatter.
See it on Flickr.
Foxcity – Pretty 7m
January Group Gift 2020