We’ve all seen the hashtag #blacklivesmatter that was followed up with #alllivesmatter and #bluelivesmatter. Each one of these hashtags represents a people, a perspective of reality from which we see and experience the world. What I think will help us as a society is if we take a second to honestly consider why people would use these hashtags in the first place.
Take for example #blacklivesmatter. It seems obvious that this hashtag is used because there have been so many young Black men who have been shot by police. But, this hashtag has been reduced by some to be an agenda that promotes criminal activity. Responses to this hashtag have been #alllivesmatter, #bluelivesmatter, and all they have to do is comply.
These responses are avoiding the problem and dismissing the value of the Black person. Do #alllivesmatter? Yes. Do #bluelivesmatter? Yes. But, we have to admit the truth that young Black men are being shot and killed by law enforcement at an alarming rate.
What can be done to make it better?
Understanding that I may sound too simplistic, here’s a solution that I offer. We need training (in the classrooms and law enforcement academies) that teaches the public and law enforcement officers how to interact with differing cultures and people of various economic backgrounds. Let me give you an example.
When I first started teaching in Alief, I did not understand how a student could come in one day and be cool and then the next day be belligerent and disrespectful. Over the past three years I have learned various techniques that have helped me properly deal with a student who is angry.
See, I was trained early on in my career about how to recognize and honor different cultures in the classroom, but this did not teach me how to deescalate a student from a different culture who may not understand classrooms norms as one would expect. I needed to be taught how to relate to a student in a way that would get them from the emotional place they were to where they needed to be.
Did I learn these techniques over night? No. Have I used them perfectly every time? No. Do I need to practice and continue to strengthen my skills as an educator? Yes.
In conclusion, when we read these hashtags and consider our lives in this world we should think collectively about the mother who is afraid that her child won’t come home at night because he was shot by a police officer and we should think about an officer’s family who is afraid that their family member won’t come home because he or she was shot by a criminal. We should also work to educate ourselves to wisely interact with people in society. The better we understand and respect each other, the better we will be able to get along and make this world a beautiful and peaceful place where all lives, regardless of one’s race, truly matter.