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Black Lives Matter, Especially on the 4th of July

Today is the 4th of July. I dread this day every year.

Of course there was a time when I could not wait for this holiday to arrive. As a kid, we would get together with friends, light off Roman Candles and those ones with the fountains of colorful sparks, and the boxes of tiny missiles that were completely unpredictable and often landed on a person’s skin, causing mild burns. Ah, the ’80s and ‘90s… I miss that carefree version of me, and yet I’m glad she’s gone. Because of the education I had received and more importantly the education I hadn’t received, I was completely ignorant about my own country’s history.

My children will not be ignorant. And they are not growing up celebrating the 4th of July in that way. I’m sure there are a lot of people who think I’m robbing them of the experience of blowing shit up and mindlessly celebrating a country undeserving of celebration, but I guess those people can eat shit.

It’s the mindless part of it that bothers me the most. The way people are not only ignorant but actively unwilling to think. Every year I dread this holiday because I hate looking at everyone’s pictures of their cookouts — always so much fucking meat — and their stupid American flag clothing and the huge fireworks they bought illegally and want you to be impressed by. I’m not impressed, Gary. I do, however, enjoy the irony of a bunch of MAGA idiots celebrating independence and freedom while actively supporting a fascist dictator. It would be funny if it weren’t so… you know the rest.

Something I really despise is the most seemingly innocuous thing. And that is people saying “Happy 4th!” earnestly. Those words make my skin crawl. And I can just hear people reading this, and my parents, and most other people on the planet, telling me that I’m a little too sensitive. NO. I’m tired of hearing that. I am not too sensitive. YOU are not sensitive enough. And I don’t overthink things. YOU under-think things. And you under-think because if you were to contemplate things with any depth, you might experience some slight discomfort and that is the worst thing you can imagine.

I truly believe that white Americans’ comfort is one of the biggest factors in the continued perpetuation of white supremacy in this country. Which is fucking maddening if you think about it. And you should. But white Americans — especially boomers — were taught that their comfort was paramount. That they deserve to be comfortable. And they are not willing to give that up for anything. Not even our fellow humans being gunned down in the streets by the people sworn to protect them.

So no, there will be no fireworks for us today. Luckily though, there was a Black Lives Matter march in our lil’ city of Olympia. My partner and I took the kids, we marched to the capitol building, and I was so proud. Proud of Olympia because of all the folks who came out, and proud of my kids for being willing to show up too. And caring about this stuff. They actually give a shit. They are 10 and 8 and have a better understanding of race in this country than most adults.

There is nothing more powerful to me than gathering in the streets with people. It creates a sense of community, hope, and a strong sense of solidarity. I love the chants. I love the signs. I love the sense of urgency that something needs to change. And it feels, when we are gathered together, like we can make that change. I love the adrenaline of blocking traffic and the unity of yelling together (in masks, since we are still in the midst of a pandemic).

Taking to the streets is incredibly empowering, but we shouldn’t have to be out there. Black humans shouldn’t have to be fighting for their lives in 2020. Throughout the march today I was reminded of just how solemn this really is. We rise with anger and determination, but when we chant the names George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others, we do so from within a deep well of sadness. My son, a numbers kid, was doing the math to calculate how old Breonna Taylor was when she died based on the year she was born. When he realized how young she was, I saw his eyes fall.

When we chant “hands up, don’t shoot,” I think of all the unarmed people who have been shot by police without posing even a shred of a threat to them. When we chant “I can’t breathe,” the words catch in my throat. I’ve asked myself so many times how white people could ever have enslaved other human beings and how much of their humanity they had to sacrifice in order to own people, and I am asking the same questions now. How can a person hear another person say “I can’t breathe” and not care? How much of their humanity have the police sacrificed in order to perpetrate the violence of the state?

Of course, after the march we had to return to the world in which most Americans are celebrating, mindlessly, in some form or another today. They are dressed in red, white, and blue clothing and lighting shit on fire. They are celebrating the independence of a nation that was founded on genocide and slavery. The Declaration of Independence declared that all men were created equal, but the men who crafted that document counted Black people as 3/5 of a human. Proving that from the inception of this country, white people have not seen black people as human. As men, to use their language. This is what people are celebrating. Not consciously, but is that any better?

Maybe it’s harmless. But I don’t think so.

What I do know is what we have all been witnessing for the last month, and that is that people are starting to see truth. People are saying “enough is enough.” They are finally showing up. Even, dare I say, learning. Yeah, most of them are still lighting shit on fire today, but it’s progress.

We will tear down white supremacy and capitalism in this country. There is no other option. Get ready to fight. But first, to think.

Fuck the 4th of July.

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