All That Really Matters

I was not able to post yesterday for a number of reasons. Not the least of which is the turmoil caused by this nation trying to come to terms with those sins of the past that come back to haunt us and hunt us in the present.

I am an old white man. I suffer from “white privilege” in ways I can’t explain to some of my white friends back in Iowa, a State that was almost entirely white when I was growing up there. (And I pray that I grew UP, not just old.)

I learned yesterday that it matters how you put in order the things that you can say on matters of race. You can’t just say, “Black lives matter” to some white people. They will angrily insist that “All lives matter.” They will then proceed to tell you that you are being a racist when you suggest that black people are somehow more important than white people. I learned that you should say instead, “All lives matter, which means black lives certainly matter too. And the debate now is about a few recent black lives that were treated like they didn’t matter, and so, their lives ended in being murdered.” You can’t give white people a reasonable-sounding way to get out of admitting that, or they will. (See, I can be a bit racist too. I sometimes have a hard time believing all white people have positive human feelings in them somewhere.)

My illustrations for this post all came from Pinterest.

It has often, in my teaching career, been a disadvantage to be a white male. Black kids don’t believe you can see them as a good person. If you have to call them down for misbehavior, the worst ones will automatically assume it is about their race and not their behavior. A good teacher needs to listen more than they talk. You have to get them to open up about what happens in their lives that makes them behave the way that they do. You have to make them understand that you actually care about them and want to help. You have to earn their trust to get their best learning behavior. And being white makes that all so much harder. Not just with Afro Americans. Hispanic kids too. Vietnamese kids too. And I promise you, if you take the time to really get to know a kid… from any race or culture… you will discover that underneath it all, there are no bad kids. You stand a very good chance of learning to love them… no matter their racial or cultural differences from you.

And as an old white man, I suffer the disadvantage of never being able to truly understand what it feels like to have to worry that, at any moment, the police might kill you with a gun, or press the life out of you with a knee on your neck… just because of the color of your skin. That is in no way a fair thing that black men, black women, and black kids have to worry about that.

I am saddened and frustrated too that I can’t do any more to correct this terrible injustice than I am doing. I can’t attend protests because of my poor health and the pandemic that will probably kill me anyway. I am too old and crippled and broke to do any more than write this essay and post things on social media that make some of my old white friends angry and ready to argue.

I feel bad. The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, and too many more diminish me, make me hurt in my heart. And all I can do about it is tell you that there needs to be more love in this world, and less hate. And I hope maybe you have a little more of it to add to the world. After all, that’s all that really matters.


Filed under 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion, angry rant, commentary, compassion, empathy, kids, Liberal ideas, philosophy, racial profiling

7 responses to “All That Really Matters

  1. Great post. I can’t really say I share any of your experiences, but it really resonated with me.

    The Black population is small where I live, and while most Canadians I know support the movement without question, it can be difficult putting this vague “support” into tangible actions. I still struggle with the idea of not contributing enough to the movement, and with the sense of distance I feel when I’m up in another country and the only Black person I can safely say I know is one English teacher from high school.

    But yes, more love in this world, and more educating ourselves and others on the subject of race.

  2. “Black lives matter” as a slogan is going to be controversial. It absolutely invites “All lives matter” as the counterpoint. I know people who don’t have the slightest shade of racism in them cringe at it. “Black lives matter too” would be less controversial but involves 4 more characters.

    When you are selling something, you want to target your message to the people who aren’t sure they want to buy your product. But then, that doesn’t inspire the people who are already sold on it. Just something to think about.

    • You are right of course. That’s the case with my Iowegian friends who don’t want to be called a racist, but have been taught by Fox News to be offended by the phrase. I have always been a political moderate, but the right wing has pulled everybody so hard to conservatism, that I am now seen as a loony liberal. And just because I don’t think it’s a crime to be born black. A lot of people, though, who were against me defending Trayvon Martin are in agreement that this was definitely a murder.

      • Every time a news story points out injustices

      • Or abuses of police power i smile. Not long ago these abuses would never have come to light. If you had brought them up, there’d have been little sympathy

        So it is bad that an old man gets shoved an injured but it is amazing that it makes the news and that the governor of NY cares. Logically, that is progress.

        Nobody has ever put their knee on my throat but I’ve had bad experiences with police where I was without fault so I know it happens all the time.

      • I admit to having some trouble with police myself. But the biggest problem I had was while advocating for the rights of Hispanic students in South Texas and a black student in North Texas.

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